Saskatoon schools found to be overflowing after enrolment spikes this fall

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Schools around Saskatchewan have officially submitted fall enrolment numbers to the Ministry of Education and many are reporting spikes in enrolment.

According to Saskatoon Public Schools, the division has seen growth across all grades from kindergarten to Grade 12.

“It has gone up by 1,078 students, pre-k to Grade 12,” said education superintendent Mitch Kachur. “Our schools are filling up.”

Saskatoon Public Schools’ Collen Norris staffs the division’s secondary schools and said this year is unlike other years.

“Our year-over-year increase is usually less than 100 students. Of course, it dipped during the pandemic and then had a boost after that, but in the last seven years, we have increased less than 500 students and 278 of those students were from just this year,” Norris said.

She said that is a significant increase for the high schools that hasn’t been seen in the past due to a high volume of immigration in the province.

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“We also have many students that are returning to schooling post-pandemic. That still continues to be an increase in our enrolment and along with just demand for our programs.”

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Unfortunately, the spike is causing facility concerns as schools reach their maximum capacity.

“We are particularly seeing facility concerns in the northeast,” Norris said.

She said the division has put in a request with the Ministry of Education for a new high school near Brighton. If approved, the new school would lighten the burden on Walter Murray Collegiate, which is nearing 1,700 students, and at Centennial Collegiate, which currently has more than 1,500 students.

“We will do the best with what we have while continuing to advocate for new spaces,” Norris said.

She noted that the 2023-2024 school year is the seventh consecutive year of budget cuts.

“In secondary school, for example, we have 473 more students than we did seven years ago, but we have 52 less teachers.”

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Both Norris and Kachur confirmed no students were turned away from enrolment at Saskatoon Public Schools this fall. They said schools and staff are still prepared to welcome new students as families move and register midway through the school year.

Diane Boyko with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools said the division has also seen growth, but the number of students is welcome after slower-than-expected growth during the pandemic.

“Knowing that parents entrust us with the education of their children is always a bit humbling, and it helps keep our responsibility as educators top of mind.”

As of Sept. 30, 2022, enrolment for pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 is up 943 students from the year prior — 540 more than the division projected.

The division now teaches 22,089 students, with the most dramatic increase seen at Saskatchewan’s only Ukrainian bilingual school, Bishop Filevich, which has almost doubled its enrolment numbers.

Boyko said additional resources are needed to support the spike in students.

“More students means the need for more resources to serve those families who chose Catholic faith-based education,” Boyko said.

She said areas like counselling services and English classes to support secondary languages are going to be stretched.

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