As the Surrey School District continues to grapple with overcrowded classrooms across the city, a heritage South Surrey school is struggling with the completely opposite dilemma – how to turn around its lowest student enrolment in at least five years.
District spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed Friday that discussions will get underway this fall around ways to attract students to East Kensington Elementary.
Parents were warned before the summer that enrolment at the 2795 184 St. school may be an issue, Strachan said.
Friday, officials sent a newsletter home advising that just 40 kindergarten to Grade 7 students were enrolled for the 2016-17 school year, and that as a result, staffing would be reduced by one teacher and the grades would be reconfigured into two classes: one for kindergarten and Grade 1 students, and one for students in Grades 2-7.
“I know over the years, our school has had its ups and down with enrolment, and our hope is we will bounce back and that this will be only a short-term challenge,” principal Jennifer Tarnowski writes.
“We are looking for a sustainable long-term solution for East Kensington and will come back to the community this fall with suggestions and ideas for moving forward. We also welcome suggestions and ideas from our community.”
Strachan said the sole Grade 7 student opted this week to change schools, and enrolment may dip further next week if any or all of the three registered Grade 6 students follow suit.
While one parent contacted Peace Arch News Friday to express concerns with the wide spread of grades in one class, Strachan said multi-age classrooms are not a new concept in the district.
“East Kensington has always been like that,” he said.
And given the small number of students overall, it’s “manageable.”
“There’s not going to be any deficiency in education,” he said.
Strachan said it’s too early to say what options may be explored for boosting enrolment, but that officials are hopeful.
“The enrolment has faced its challenges over the years,” he said, describing parents’ concerns as “understandable.”
At the same time, the tight-knit community is the school’s strength, he said, and it’s hoped as word gets out about what it has to offer, enrolment will again climb.