Red Deer Public Schools has 426 students less students for the 2020/21 school year than it did last year. A total of 10,803 students are registered this year compared to 11,229 students the year before. Included in the overall count, 906 students are registered in the At-Home Learning program as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In looking at the numbers, the jurisdiction has seen a reduction in the number of students in prekindergarten programming as a result of changes to provincial funding. Last year the Division offered 13 prekindergarten programs where this year there are only 8.
While the Division welcomed 103 international students last year, only 14 are registered in our schools this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While 906 students are participating in at-home learning, the pandemic has also seen families choosing traditional homeschooling where parents are fully responsible for their children’s learning and are not connected to any school division.
As schools followed up on registrations, it is clear that families are also leaving our community for a variety of reasons.
“Declining enrollment is always a challenge,” said Chad Erickson, Superintendent of Schools. “I think this speaks to many of the challenges we’re facing with the pandemic but it also points to a decline in population in our city.”
Board Chair Nicole Buchanan noted this will have long term implications as well. “With the new provincial funding model, these reductions will have funding implications not just this year but the next two years as well. This is yet another challenge we’re facing in an already difficult year. We are hopeful the province will reconsider its funding model given the anomalies of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Meanwhile, students and staff are happy to be back in the classroom together.
“Overall, the first month of school has been a success under near normal circumstances. There have been challenges but our staff, students and families have been amazing. It’s fair to say that people are excited to be back in school. Normal routines are in place and we are focusing on teaching and learning. We all know that 2020 is a year unlike any other, but we are getting through this together and doing our very best,” said Erickson.