Enrolment up slightly at most Catholic schools

An enrolment study shows a slight rise in the number of students attending local Catholic board schools, but there are some concerns that numbers are dropping at Our Lady of the Way in Stratton.
The Northwest District Catholic School Board held its regular monthly meeting there Saturday morning and one of the main topics discussed was the recent enrolment study.
“We’re looking at enrolment studies and accessibility studies,” Education Director John Madigan said at the meeting.
“Those are the types of things we look at to plan for the future and to set some long-term goals,” he noted. “We’re looking at the forests instead of the trees.”
The enrolment and staffing report showed an average increase of 12.5 full-time equivalent students in the separate school board.
St. Michael’s went up by five students, St. Francis was up nine, and Sacred Heart in Sioux Lookout jumped by 15 students.
“Sacred Heart was up 15 students. That is kind of surprising since they have a brand new public school up there,” board chair Wade Petranik said.
Our Lady of the Way was the only school that saw an enrolment decrease. It was down by 11 students.
“Al [Cesiunnas] and I are looking at ways to make the school more enticing to students across the district because we need students to have a school,” OWL principal David Sharp told the board.
“Enrolment is high at the top end and lower at the bottom end so it’s something we have to look at,” he remarked.
The report also said the board had hired 10.5 full-time equivalent new teachers—half of whom were to replace staff that had retired.
The study had a number of suggestions for the board, including starting a Native as a Second Language program at Sacred Heart school as well as reaching out to Rainy River First Nations with additional cultural activities and increased use of elders or native content to increase the number of students at OLW.
Expanding the French Immersion program was another suggestion for boosting enrolment but in light of difficulties hiring French teachers, trustees didn’t think this plan was feasible at this time.
Also at Saturday’s meeting, the board:
•approved the personnel report;
•reviewed school renewal projects completed over the summer;
•discussed accessibility studies for Fort Frances, Stratton, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout schools
•reviewed plans for a faith development day, which will be held Oct. 21; and
•discussed the board’s position on the funding formula presented to the Education Equality Task Force.