More local students have opted for online learning this year, but their seats are being filled with an increase in international students.
Considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, the district only anticipated 13 fee-paying international students. The school district currently has 43 international students.
“The reduction in regular enrolment means that there is space in existing classes to teach these students without increasing staffing,” assistant secretary-treasurer Adrian Johnson said in a report.
All of the international youth had their student Visas in place prior to COVID restrictions.
“Some stayed over the summer, some came back two weeks early for their 14 quarantine,” superintendent Joe Rogers said.
There are 206 students studying online, compared to 128 last school year. This is due to more students enrolled in the online VLearn program.
Twenty-eight students have also withdrawn from the public system for homeschooling.
In total, Sept. 30 enrolment numbers are 8,492, which is only 33 fewer students than last year, but there are 117 fewer students in regular school compared to 2019-20.
The Vernon School District is facing a $1.2-million shortfall due to a drop in enrolment for the current school year.
While enrolment represents a large financial hit, other funding areas are up. There is a surplus for international, divisions and education assistants, which brings the total budget shortfall down to $290,000.
An operation surplus of $881,416 from 2019-20 will cover the end shortfall of $290,000.
“Fewer students with special educational needs means that fewer Education Assistants are needed to maintain the level of service provided across the district,” Johnson said. “This is expected to result in a cost-saving of about $460,000.”
The district is already staffed with a lower number of education assistants, so no layoffs or other staff changes are needed to achieve this cost-saving.
The average class size has also dropped. Kindergarten to Grade 3 has the largest reduction at 18 for 2020-21, compared to 19.5 last year and 20.4 the year prior.
“The enrolment variance means that two elementary schools are able to maintain reasonable class sizes with one fewer division,” Johnson said. “This is expected to result in a reduction in staff costs of about $180,000.”