For the first time ever, the Prince Rupert school district (SD52) student body has dropped below 2,000. At the Sept. 13 board meeting, it was reported going into the second week of school, that a total of 1,963 students are enrolled in SD52. The district expects movement upward, but current numbers represent a total drop of 109 students from final district enrolment numbers at the conclusion of 2015-16, when 2,072 students were enrolled.
Overcrowding in classes
A few Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) classes are experiencing higher than expected numbers, with a shortage of desks being experienced in the early days of school.
A parent at the board meeting stated that her daughter needed to be bumped from a pre-calculus math course, and Prince Rupert Middle School (PRMS) parent Kelly Johnson reported the week before the meeting that the middle school was experiencing a shortage of tables for students to eat their lunches at, resulting in a few having to eat in the hallways, due to messy classrooms. PRMS principal Michele Cross-Pomponio said that there was no shortage of tables, but the school was trying something new for lunches that did not work out, and that students are back eating lunches in their classrooms.
SD52 superintendent Sandy Jones confirmed that there were higher numbers than normal in classrooms and they’re sorting through it.
“It happens every year. I’ve timetabled [CHSS] for a lot of years and you’ve always got hot spots. You’ve got some areas where the classes get big and some where the classes are small. It’s not a simple equation and we try not to let that happen. This year there were a few hot spots and it’s disruptive. It’s not what we aim for,” said Jones.
Administrative savings redirected to SD52
The Ministry of Education redirected $25 million back to B.C. school districts, and SD52 received $123,861. The district’s operating budget was adjusted to $488,665 from $500,930. More support for exchange students and kindergarten students was added, with an increase to select salary exempt employees who had previously seen a six-year wage freeze. Getting occupational health and safety measures up to code was identified as a priority, and needed to be addressed. $100,000 was set aside for this, but trustee Janet Beil said that that figure was too high to oversee a district with such a small population and said a full-time employee to oversee occupational health and safety for SD52 employees is too much. The board approved the adjusted budget, and the board will search for cheap options to get the need up to code, like sharing someone with expertise with another district or organization.
Water tested before school
On Aug. 31 a round of water quality sampling tests of all SD52 buildings took place and all water sources came back with an acceptable rating, except for three sources exceeding acceptable lead levels, all sink faucets. The first is a sink in the upstairs science room at Prince Rupert Middle School, which has signage saying it’s not available for consumption. The second is at Pacific Coast School, and it will have lead reduction water filters installed at domestic water lines. The third is at the School Board Office, and it’s designated as a non-potable tap water source building. Water is available from water coolers.
“Water flushing systems have been installed and made operational in all district buildings and new water fountains are the only fountains available in all the various schools,” said SD52 secretary-treasurer Cam McIntyre. With guidance from Northern Health, SD52 has spent $300,000 toward safe drinking water and a lead mitigation program, $150,000 of which has come from the Ministry of Education’s School Enhancement Program.