The start of the new school year brought surprises to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District this September. There’s been faster-than-expected growth, and a painfully slow new computer system.
The district received an unexpected bump in the elementary school population. Six new classes have been added across the district, at Harry Hooge, Yennadon, Kanaka Creek, Webster’s Corners, Blue Mountain and Albion elementary schools.
“I’m guessing the growth will be 180 to 200 students at elementary, which is about twice what it was last year,” said superintendent Sylvia Russell. “So it’s significant enough.”
The new students mean more money for the school district, said Russell.
Districts receive provincial funding per pupil, now at $8,600 each, according to the education ministry.
So 200 new students would bring approximately $1.7 million in additional funding.
Declining enrollment has played a large role in the district’s financial troubles in recent years, which have resulted in millions of dollars in cuts, job losses, elimination of regular school bus service, and austerity measures, such as increased rental fees.
Russell said school district administration is an easier job when the student population is increasing.
“When the district is growing, there’s just resources coming in. It’s a more positive mindset, and it’s easier to do things when it’s growing.”
Russell said the growth has arisen from new families moving to Maple Ridge, which can be difficult for the district to accurately forecast.
“There were quite a sizable number that moved into the district. We’re not finished with the count, so the numbers are soft at this phase,” she said.
They appear to be young families.
“For some reason, a lot of the growth was at Kindergarten and at Grade 4 – there’s a lot of new Grade 4s in the school district.”
There has been growth in the immigrant population moving into the east end of the district, and there are ESL learner needs in the schools in that area.
“A diverse population is a good thing,” said Russell.
Slow computers are not.
Educators were met with a new student information system this year, as the province converted from BCeSIS to My Education BC.
David Vandergugten, director of K-12 education, told trustees Wednesday that the problem with MyEdBC lies in lagging processing times.
“It’s a very lethargic system,” he said, explaining it might take 15 minutes for an administrator to simply search for a student’s file in the system.
Local teachers have all been able to log in and establish their security settings. But they are not yet at the point where they can take attendance with the new system across the district. That is supposed to happen by Oct. 1.
Vandergugten said ministry technicians are still trying to locate the source of the slowdowns.
Board chair Mike Murray noted many districts are saying the same thing about MyEdBC.
The education ministry has acknowledged the problems, and said it is working “around the clock” to solve them.