Central Okanagan Public Schools continues to see enrolment climb for the 2022-23 school year. (File photo)

Central Okanagan school enrolment continues to escalate

More than 24,000 students registered for in-class instruction for 2022-23 year

The preliminary enrolment numbers for Central Okanagan Public Schools for the 2022-23 school year reaffirm what is already widely recognized – the school district continues to grow.

Currently, 24,332 students are attending in-class instruction – which includes international and alternate education students – along with 227 attending eSchoolBC, the school district home school program option.

Last spring, the projected head count for September was 23,574 students in classroom registration, an increase of 366 from the spring of 2021, which also did not include international or alternative education enrolment.

As of Sept. 13, the actual registration came in at 23,499, representing a decrease of 46 from original projections but 314 over last year’s Sept. 30 numbers (23,185).

Okanagan Public School superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal informed trustees of the registration numbers at Wednesday’s board of education meeting, with a final confirmation to be presented at the Sept. 28 board meeting.

Kaardal told the trustees the international education program will see an enrolment of 569 students over the course of the 2022-23 school year, with 475 fee paying students already arrived and another 94 confirmed to come for the second half of the school year.

The school district’s Welcome Centre initiative also helped to settle 507 immigrant students and their families.

“Our Welcome Centre staff have welcomed 298 students and their families from 43 countries to the Central Okanagan compared to last year’s new registration in September of 119 students,” stated Kaardal’s report to the board.

“The Central Okanagan has become a settlement destination and has seen a steady influx of families from an ever-growing number of countries around the world.”

Kaardal also acknowledged the “miraculous” efforts of school district support staff, administration and teachers over the summer to open the repurposed Webber Road Elementary for the start of classes last week, along with the task of repurposing École Bellevue Creek Elementary.

Kaardal said in his seven years with the school district, he had already seen staff perform one miracle when the flooding at A.S. Matheson Elementary on the Labour Day weekend dumped two million litres of water inside the school, but the school still opened for classes two days later on schedule.

“We have come to refer to that as the ‘Miracle at Matheson’ but opening Webber elementary on time took an equally miraculous effort from everyone involved to be ready when the students arrived last Tuesday,” he said.

“I am not a construction person but when I saw what had to be done this summer, I had concerns we could get the school opened on time. But credit to the CUPE staff, administrative staff, the teachers, the principal and vice-principal for making that happen, to create a beautiful place for learning.”

Among the challenges carried out included the addition of six portables to the site outfitted with sewer, water and gas connections; updating the building electrical system for lighting, alarm system and PA system; upgrading the parking lot with 32 parking spaces and a dedicated bus lane; and renovations to the gymnasium, washrooms and administration offices.

“It was a capable, caring and dedicated staff that came together to make it happen,” said school district operations director Rob Drew of the Webber opening.

“There was a lot of optimism and everyone was so positive despite the tight deadlines. We all realized it was important to have the school for the students when classes started up again.”

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