Avon Maitland schools enrolment report hints at possible changes at Little Falls, SPCS – By Dan Rankin

A director’s report from an Avon Maitland District School Board meeting dated May 26 sheds light on the current and projected enrolment of schools around the region, showing that a review of the boundaries for South Perth Centennial School and Little Falls Public School could be around the corner.
South Perth Centennial is projected to have 161 students in the upcoming school year, or about 48 per cent of its capacity. According to the report, no other elementary schools in Perth County or Stratford are projected to operate below 60 percent capacity for the 2015-2016 school year. Of the 38 elementary schools in the report, only Bluewater Coast Elementary School in South Huron is projected to operate at a lower capacity than SPCS next year, at 45.4 percent.
Little Falls, expected to have 495 students enrolled next year, would be operating at 99.4 percent capacity, while Downie Central is expected to welcome 280 students – which would be 104.5 percent capacity for the school. St. Marys DCVI’s elementary wing is projected to be even further above capacity next year, with 144 students, or 125.2 percent capacity. Those students shouldn’t feel too cramped, however, as the secondary school enrolment at DCVI is expected to dip to 425 (63 percent capacity).
According to the report, “school closures and consolidations undertaken over the past 14 years have resulted in many of our remaining elementary schools operating near capacity for the next 10 to 15 years, although some remain below the average.” It also notes that “Secondary school enrolments will decline significantly over the next three years,” as projected at DCVI for the next few years.
Declining enrolments at Avon Maitland schools remains the board’s “biggest financial challenge.”
“Regardless of changes to the funding formula, our revenue remains directly tied to the number of students within the Board,” reads the report. “As enrolment declines, so does revenue. As a result, the Board must continue seeking efficiencies in its operations to free up financial resources which facilitate the achievement of board goals.”
To meet these challenges the report notes that at schools with smaller populations “the likelihood of triple grade classes in elementary schools increases, the opportunities to have teachers teaching to their area of specialty decrease as the number of staff within a school decreases, opportunities for a range of co-curricular activities are reduced as the number of staff members within a school are reduced, the pressure to have teaching principals and vice principals increases,” and “there is an increased need for the sharing of support staff, such as technical resource assistants.”
The report concludes that “While staff is not recommending any schools for further review at this time, the Board may choose to pass a motion to place a school or group of schools under review.”
Thus, though South Perth is operating far below its capacity, parents of South Perth Bobcats can breathe a sigh of relief for the moment, as the school has not been recommended for “further review” – which could mean closure – and there isn’t much room locally to put South Perth’s 161 students. However, there is some hint at possible changes at the school, where enrolment is “expected to decline slightly over the next 10 years.”
Under the “Next Steps” heading in the report, one point indicates that high enrolment pressure at Little Falls and low enrolment at South Perth “present accommodation and programming concerns over the next 10 years.” If those trends continue, board staff suggest “this area should be considered for an in-depth review.” A subsequent point mentions that, as a “potential review area,” it may involve “examining possible configuration(s) in order to best benefit our students.”
While that may appear vague in the report, the Independent has reason to believe Avon Maitland staff could be considering a boundary review for the two schools that sees some students who are currently bussed to Little Falls, such as those from homes along Emily Street or the development along Glass Street in the north of town, heading to Rannoch for school.