Wednesday, 27 February 2013 08:42

Livingstone Range School Division tries to jumpstart enrolment

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The Livingstone Range School Division (LRSD) has been keeping an eye on the decline in enrolment over the years, to try and come up with ways of boosting student numbers.

The student enrolment for LRSD has had a steady decline of approximately three per cent every year.
As of Jan. 24, the school division has about 4,000 students registered in all of its schools.
Martha Ratcliffe, the LRSD’s board chair, says one of the reasons she thinks the decline is occurring is due to smaller families.
“Everything from families becoming smaller (i.e. the disappearance of the family farm to ‘factory’ farm, parents having fewer children), to those choosing to home school and those enroling in other schools due to programming options,” says Ratcliffe.
She adds school division officials have always had an eye on the decline in enrolment, but this year they have decided to focus on the issue.
“We’ve been aware of the enrolment declining ever since I’ve been a trustee and we’ve made it a priority this year, but it’s something we’ve always been concerned about and looking into,” says Ratcliffe.
The concern is the school division receives fewer dollars as enrolment declines.
The lower the amount of funding, the less that can be spent on programming.
“As the ... student population declines so does our funding and we still want to offer our students a good quality program, but with fewer dollars it gets harder and harder,” explains Ratcliffe.
Many of the programs offered at LRSD schools are combined with several other courses. An example is math.
Ratcliffe’s son’s math class has Math Pure and Math Applied combined.
Therefore, it makes it harder for students to learn when they are supposed to be learning different levels of a particular program.
Ratcliffe says there are some classes that have three different levels of math in them.
“It’s hard to teach and it’s hard to learn.”
LRSD isn’t the only school division suffering from a decline in enrolment, Ratcliffe explains all rural Alberta schools seem to have the same problem, causing city schools to take on more students.
“The decline throughout rural Alberta has certainly been significant and while rural Alberta has an ever-diminishing population, some city schools are bursting at the seams,” says Ratcliffe.
LRSD, along with municipalities throughout rural Alberta, are working on ways to increase enrolment by trying to attract new businesses and industries to their part of the world.
Also, the school divisions are working on improving their programming for students, to give them the best possible learning experiences.
“We’re in a nice little corner of the world and ... small schools can definitely be a good thing and we’ve got to remember that,”  says Ratcliffe.
“All of our communities, our parents have told us that they want their kids to go to school in their community and we’re working hard to make sure that we can deliver a good program.”
LRSD is looking at every possible way to increase enrolment and improve the ways students learn.
It may be by providing additional programs or just by providing better ways of learning.
One thing the division is working on is to try and separate the different levels of programs such as math.
It’s easier for students to learn and teachers to teach one level of program at a time.
“We as a division, must therefore find ways to make sure our students receive the best education we can deliver. That means forming partnerships with other divisions to find ways to serve our students. It means finding new ways to deliver programs to our students whether that is by video-conferencing or some other type of instruction.”
At the end of the day, LRSD hopes its students have fun and fulfilling days at school. The school division’s goal is to make sure students enjoy what they’re learning and are learning it in the best way for them.
“Well, we hope that (the students) actually like going to school and we hope that they’re learning and that they’re going to graduate and become productive citizens,” says Ratcliffe.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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