By Andru McCracken
School District 57 will not provide enrollment numbers for individual schools in the Robson Valley, even though they say the numbers are positive. Typically Rocky Mountain Goat Media and other news organizations dating back to the 2000s report on the enrollment numbers in schools.
But spokespersons for the School District claim they are just following policy (a policy they are unwilling to share).
Enrollment is a signal of community’s health and vibrancy and of general interest, but in recent times it’s been politicized: as a guide to determine whether or not to co-locate McBride Centennial Elementary School as enrollment dwindled in that community.
Since November 2016, the Board of Education has made the link between total student population and the possible co-location of McBride Centennial Elementary School with the McBride High School.
When initially contacted about enrollment in early October, the school’s new “Communication and Community Relations Officer,” Jason Peters, responded with numbers for the whole valley.
“Total enrollment this year is 363. Last year, it was 351,” said Peters.
He went on to say that enrollment across SD 57 increased by 80 students to 13,082.
Peters cited an obligation to the Ministry of Education, but didn’t respond with details.
Peters hasn’t said when the numbers would be available.
School District 57 board chair Tim Bennett said he understands the Goat’s frustration around the numbers. Despite having done their final count a month ago, Bennett said the district has a process to go through.
“I can say that preliminary numbers are up in the Robson Valley and the Board is very excited about that,” he said.
Bennett also declined to share his reasons for not disclosing preliminary numbers.
The districts’ last superintendent Marilyn Marquis-Foster went as far as forbidding valley principals from answering inquiries from the media on their own on or off the record.
SD 57 Director for the Robson Valley Bob Thompson stopped by the Rocky Mountain Goat News office to talk about enrollment. He said that preliminary numbers were very positive, but also wasn’t able to share them, he said he was committed to ensure that the school board acts transparently.
“I think what they’re worried about is too many mouths arbitrarily just talking all the time and accidentally letting out stuff that is confidential,” said Thompson.
“[Enrollment] is up in both elementary schools. So that’s a good news story for Valley and I know it was really pretty spooky in McBride for a number of years.”
Thompson reiterated that school colocation in McBride has not been on their agenda.
“I have not heard any discussion about closing McBride Centennial Elementary School,” he said.
But Thompson said that the district is moving in the right direction, including making hard choices with staff, and hiring a superintendent who is a better fit for the area.