The Lambton Kent District School Board reports a “relative stabilization” in student enrollment.

However, despite the fact that the board’s enrolment has increased slightly from the previous school year, long-term projections suggest the board will gradually decline the number of students over the next decade.

According to a new pupil accommodation report, as of Oct. 31, the public board had a total of 14,881 elementary students and 7,394 secondary students for a total enrollment of 22,275, which includes 300 students in virtual learning.

“It is positive to see a relative stabilization in the overall enrolment at the Lambton Kent District School Board, and this is helpful in our planning for capital projects, staffing, and effectively allocating resources in order to maximize impact on student learning at the school level,” said Director John Howitt.

Enrolment increased from the 2021-22 year by 286 students at the elementary level and by 333 students at the secondary level for a total increase of 736 students.

Between the 2012-13 and 2021-22 school years, enrolment decreased by 7.23 percent or 1,678 students.

The board’s overall capacity within its schools is currently 74.16 percent. This works out to 7,761 empty pupil spaces. By 2032, the space capacity is expected to be 72.13 percent.

The report also expects overall enrolment to drop slightly to 21,786 students in 2026 and 21,665 students in 2032. This would represent a loss of 610 students.

As it stands, six elementary schools have populations of fewer than 150 students, and three secondary schools have fewer than 400 students.

The six elementary schools that have student populations under 150 students are: Mooretown-Courtright Public School with 106 students; Zone Township Central School with 118 students; Dawn Euphemia Public School with 121 students; Aberarder Central School with 122 students; Bridgeview Public School with 135 students; and Riverview Central School with 146 students.

The three of 12 secondary schools which have current student populations under 400 are Ridgetown District High School’s Grade 9-12 enrolment with 117 students; Blenheim District High School with 221 students; followed by Tilbury District High School with 353 students.

Due to these numbers, the report also examined the condition and age of schools and capital planning. The report states the board has $339.4 million in required facility work over the next five years, representing 40.66 percent of the total value of its schools.

The province has had a moratorium on school consolidations in place since 2018. Howitt said this would need to be lifted in order to move forward.

The report lists four possible consolidation plans the board could consider if the moratorium is lifted.

“The age and vacancies within our facilities provide an opportunity for refreshing and right-sizing our schools to provide better programming to our students in state-of-the-art facilities,” Howitt said.

By Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 19, 2022 at 15:01

This item reprinted with permission from   The Independent News   Ridgetown, Ontario

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