The huge growth in Rocky View Schools has taken a break this year and, like just about everything else in this mixed-up year you can lay the blame for that squarely at the feet of COVID-19.
After several years of exponential growth, enrolment in the division declined by 348 students, a decrease of 1.35 per cent. The official number RVS sent to Alberta Education after September 30th was 25,289. While it's only a small drop in the total number, it's 1,111 fewer than the 26,400 students RVS forecast to be in their schools this year when they began planning in January, months before the pandemic threw a large wrench into the school year.
Officials of the division pointed to several COVID-related reasons for this year's drop in school enrolment.
Many parents chose to keep their kindergarten students home for one more year because of fear of contracting the virus. Kindergarten is not mandatory which led to a drop from 1,849 students in 2019 to 1,462 this year.
In the intentions survey taken in August, around 500 students indicated their intention to depart Rocky View for other educational offerings this year.
The weakening Alberta economy and the pandemic has impacted migration in the province as well and fewer families have moved into the previous RVS hotspots of Airdrie, Chestermere, and Cochrane, also impacting the number of students. All of these issues factored into the smaller enrollment.
3,074 students are enrolled in online learning this year. Pre-COVID-19, online learning for Grades one to nine didn't exist in the division. 629 students registered through the Community Learning Centre (CLC). Of that number, 307 are K to Grade eight students that are home-schooling and 322 are Grades nine to 12 students in Outreach and other CLC options.
RVS indicates the government's new "weighted moving average" method means the lower numbers won't impact their operational funding for 2020-2021. The method now takes last year's enrollment, this year's enrollment, and the projections for next year into account. It is unclear yet how the government plans to address the enrollment fluctuations of this very unusual year.