Catholic board expects drop in enrolment

FORT FRANCES—The Northwest Catholic District School Board is predicting a drop in enrolment this fall at all of its schools but one.
The board is expecting a drop of about 52 students, or 36 full-time equivalencies, from its May enrolment to September.
“Certainly decreasing enrolment is a concern for us,” said Mary-Catherine Kelly, education director for the local Catholic school board.
In May, the board had 1,449 students enrolled, and is expecting about 1,397 to enroll for September—a decrease of about 3.6 percent.
When compared to enrolment in September, 2005, however, it’s a drop of about 75 students, or five percent, Kelly noted.
The reason for the decrease appears to be simply a lack of children.
“I don’t think we’re having a lot of kids leaving our system,” Kelly remarked. “It’s just a case of not having the babies coming in.”
While the schools have large classes graduating from Grade 8, the new kindergarten classes just aren’t as big.
The largest drops are expected at the board’s two schools in Fort Frances.
St. Michael’s School is expecting a decrease of about 22 students while St. Francis expects a drop of 25.
St. Joseph’s School in Dryden is expected to drop by about 10 students while Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton is expected to decrease by three.
Only Sacred Heart School in Sioux Lookout is expected to see an increase in enrolment this fall—of about 11 students.
In the 2001 census, Sioux Lookout was one of the only communities in Northwestern Ontario to record an increase in population, rather than a decrease.
Last year, the local Catholic board prepared a report with projected enrolment numbers over the next 10 years. It had estimated an approximate drop of two percent a year at each school.
“Our enrolment’s dropping even faster,” Kelly said. “Our Lady of the Way is three years ahead of where we thought we might be.”
Because school boards in Ontario are funded based on enrolment, this will mean less money for the board.
“Right now there are going to be challenges,” Kelly warned. “It does have an impact on us.”
The local Catholic board currently is working on its budget for the next school year, which it expects to pass by the end of August.
(Fort Frances Times)