The student population in School District 6 declined once again this year, but superintendent Paul Carriere says the drop is not as steep as it has been in previous years — or as the district initially projected coming into the 2011-12 school year.
According to a report prepared for the Rocky Mountain board, SD6 initially expected a loss of 61.5 FTE (short for full-time equivalent — which doesn’t necessarily correspond to the specific number of students not returning to the district) in the Windermere zone.
But in the first weeks of school, Carriere says that number has improved substantially.
“We were anticipating a decline of around 120 FTE, and it looks like we’ll actually experience a decline of somewhere around 61,” he said, adding many of the extra students have come into the district at the secondary level.
Student numbers in the Windermere zone also got a boost from new full-day kindergarten programs. Though full day kindergarten rolled out in Kimberley and Golden in 2010, this is the first year it was offered in valley schools.
“Full day kindergarten in the Windermere zone prevented the enrollment decline from being as steep,” Carriere says.
“Enrollment is better than it would have been, certainly, if we hadn’t had full day Kindergarten in the zone this year.”
While a smaller number of students means less funding for the district, Carriere says the decline doesn’t necessarily mean the district has to begin scaling back its programs.
“When enrollment goes down we receive less funding for those students, but we have fewer students that we need to provide programs for, so it’s mitigated,” he says.
“We might not be offering a class because we have fewer students. In terms of the overall position of the district, it’s not as simple as our classes remaining where they were.”
Carriere says the district is also expecting its decade-long enrollment decline to come to an end in the near future.
He predicts the decline should level off by 2014, with numbers increasing in the years beyond.
In one portion of the district, numbers have already jumped up slightly this year.
While FTE in the Windermere and Golden zones went down, Kimberley’s FTE is about 20.5 higher than last year.