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St. Paul Education hits target for enrolment

Number of outreach students in Myrnam significantly higher than projections
Students at Two Hills School are seen in their classroom, with desks spread apart. Photo courtesy St. Paul Education.

ST. PAUL - While the number of full-time students attending St. Paul Education schools is slightly down for the 2020/21 school year, the enrolment numbers as of Sept. 30 are nearly exactly what schools had projected, and an overall increase has been noted due to an increase in outreach students. 

In 2019, there was a total of 3,773 full-time students enrolled across the school division as of Sept. 30, reported Superintendent Glen Brodziak during the board's regular meeting last week. In 2020, that number is 3,757, making for 16 fewer students. Those numbers, however, do not include outreach students, explained Brodziak.

Based on projections that were received from each of the principals in the spring, the overall number of 3,757 is only three students off. This is good news since the division's budget is based on enrolment projections, said the superintendent.

When considering the outreach students, the overall number of of students enrolled with St. Paul Education is actually up. 

St. Paul Alternate Education Centre projected 73 students, and has 70 students enrolled, and Elk Point Outreach met its projection of 12 students, exactly. At the Myrnam Outreach and Home Education Centre, the number of projected students was 26, and the actual number is 62.

Outreach students are funded differently than those in a traditional school setting.

"A student could be taking only one course, so funded only for that course," explained Brodziak. Other students could be taking a traditional home schooling program, or doing a blended program.

"So in the end, a student could be funded anywhere from about 10 per cent all the way up to 100 per cent of the funding provided for the students that attend school in-person, in the traditional sense," he added. 

The Myrnam Outreach and Home School Centre is a relatively new program, and the school has been doing a lot of promotion and advertising, said Brodziak, when asked about the increase in enrolment Myrnam, following the meeting.

Many parents explored "home schooling or at-home" learning options due to the pandemic, and have found what best suits their needs, he stated. Approximately half of Myrnam's 62 students reside outside St. Paul Education's boundaries, said Brodziak.

"Of course, the Myrnam staff is doing a wonderful job, but it's important to note all our outreach programs endeavour to meet the individualized programs and needs of students and their parents, and they all should be commended for the work they do."

As of Sept. 30, there were 611 at-home learners throughout the division, said Brodziak.

Many students from Saddle Lake and Goodfish Lake attending schools within St. Paul Education only had about a week of school behind them, as of last week's Oct. 14 meeting, since buses from those communities only started running in early October. In addition, many students from Saddle Lake and Goodfish Lake were enrolled in the at-home model, and continue to do so, said Brodziak. 

"At-home learners are starting to trickle back into our schools," said the superintendent, later in the meeting, when speaking about the overall impacts the pandemic has had on all areas of the school system. 

He commended all staff for the work being done in the schools. And while there have been some "challenging and stressful" times, everyone has stepped up, from the technology department to custodial staff.