Although the Brandon School Division will see just a 1.6 per cent rise in enrolment for the 2018-2019 school year, the growth continues a trend that has been ongoing for almost a decade.
A total of 8950 students will enter classes in BSD’s 23 elementary, high school and alternative facilities next week, an increase of 145 youth compared to the 2017-2018 school year. The continued spike in enrolment puts an exclamation point on the need for new infrastructure in the area, including the planned 450-student Maryland Park Elementary School set for construction in south Brandon early next year.
“This has certainly been a priority the board has undertaken; to make sure the (provincial) government is aware of the pressure we’re under and we appreciate that the government has listened to the board by fulfilling their request for more classroom space,” said Dr. Marc D. Casavant, the BSD’s superintendent and chief executive officer.
“When you have steadily increasing enrolments like we do, it’s not going to take long before you need a new school. That building (Maryland Park School) has the capacity to expand to 675 students, so we should be okay for the next few years. When you’ve got 150 students a year coming in, it will fill Maryland Park up real quick.”
Between 2010 and 2016, the division saw an enrolment increase of about 3.98 per cent. Elementary schools – which include Kindergarten to Grade 8 students – had an increase of about 900 youth during that period, while high school enrolment increased by 237. Since 2016, the number of students has risen by 228, or 2.6 per cent.
The growing population of school-aged children in the city moved the BSD to bump its mill rate by about .97 per cent in the division’s 2018 budget.
Alongside the growing number of students comes an increase in staffing. Dr. Casavant said there will be seven additional teachers on staff this year alongside eight more employees in support positions. The division has also added two vice-principals; one at King George Elementary School and another at Betty Gibson School.
“The increase in staffing is dependent on enrolment, so the continued increase of students is kind of a parallel operating piece,” Dr. Casavant said.
There are few curricular changes, but schools within the division – alongside many other throughout the province – is in the process of updating its Human Ecology curriculum. This includes revisions in the areas of Industrial Arts and Home Economic classes. Dr. Casavant said the changes are being implemented on a voluntary basis this school year, but will be fully incorporated in the fall of 2019.
A new English Language Arts curriculum is also being phased in for all grades following a three-year pilot process that ended in June. The Kindergarten to Grade 8 changes have been gradually phased in since 2016, while students in Grades 9 to 12 will see changes to their English courses this year through June, 2021.
“When you have steadily increasing enrolments like we do, it’s not going to take long before you need a new school." – Dr. Marc D. Casavant
The new English curriculum is being updated to follow the results of current research into teaching the subject alongside a review of curricula in other countries. Consultations on the topic have also occurred with various stakeholders.
According to Manitoba Education and Training, the new English class framework is being set up to provide learning experiences that are flexible and culturally responsive in their teaching, learning and assessment practices. It is also intended to build a more inclusive learning environment, increase engagement among “diverse and complex learners,” and be more open to a larger range of resources.
Dr. Casavant also wished to remind the public – particularly motorists – that the return to school will mean greater foot traffic along city streets, specifically in the vicinity of schools.
“One of the things we talk a lot about at this time of year is trying to help inform the public that kids are going back to school, so they need to be conscious of kids crossing the streets, abiding by speed limits and general safety,” he said. “It’s inevitable every year that we talk to the students about talking to strangers and not getting into cars with strangers. We want parents to emphasize this as well and educate their kids.”
The first semester of the 2018-2019 school year opens on Wednesday, Sept. 5 for students in Kindergarten to Grade 9, while high school students will return Thursday, Sept. 6.