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This article was published 29/2/2012 (3492 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A huge immigration wave has brought thousands of new children into Winnipeg schools and produced enrolment growth in the province's public schools for the second straight year.
The Department of Education's enrolment report released this week reports net growth of 1,354 students in public schools -- a growth of 0.8 per cent, after a net gain of 173 students last year ended 16 years of what appeared to be inexorably declining enrolment.
The immigrant-driven growth is predominantly in urban centres, including Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach, while most rural divisions continue to get smaller.
Statistics Canada has warned for years the declining birth rate would lead to annual dwindling numbers of students well into the next decade.
But the agency could not foresee how successful immigration programs would be, nor did the predictions anticipate the slowly growing practice of First Nations contracting with public school divisions to administer reserve schools and their students -- thus counted as public school students.
There are 3,304 First Nations students whose schools are administered by public schools this year, up 289 in the past year.
Five city divisions have seen growth this year, led by Winnipeg School Division, up 776 students when the province conducted the official head count Sept. 30, 2011.
WSD says the growth is closer to 1,000 now and continuing.
Suburban school divisions such as Louis Riel and Pembina Trails, which had been losing far more students in older neighbourhoods than had moved into sprawling outlying suburbs, now are seeing net growth thanks to immigration.
St. James-Assiniboia and River East Transcona, which had been losing hundreds of students a year, have dropped only 19 and 28 kids overall this year, and appear close to stabilizing and then growing.
"Immigration is a huge factor here, in certain parts of the province," said Carolyn Duhamel, executive director of the Manitoba School Boards Association. "That's where it's going up, is immigration."
Seven Oaks grew by 427 students this year and Brandon by 256.
"There are schools in Seven Oaks ready to split at the seams," Duhamel said.
Growth in northwest Winnipeg has been remarkable. Seven Oaks had predicted Maples Collegiate could surpass Sisler High School as early as next fall as Manitoba's biggest school, but both are growing significantly.
Sisler has a phenomenal 555 students enrolled in Grade 10 this year -- a jump of 32 per cent over last year's Grade 9 class. Across Manitoba, there are only 16 individual grades with 400-plus students, and there hasn't been a 500-plus grade anywhere since the 563 in Grade 12 at the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre in 2004.
WSD school board chairwoman Rita Hildahl said Wednesday immigrant kids coming out of area schools that offer Grade 9, including Andrew Mynarski VC School, helped swell Sisler this year to the point it's maxed out. Trustees may have to deny schools-of-choice requests for Sisler for September, Hildahl cautioned.
"We'll be accepting fewer or none," she said.
However, Hildahl said, "I have to insist that the needs of the students are not compromised" by the heavy enrolment throughout northwest Winnipeg.
Hildahl said WSD officials are talking with the province about a potential need for another high school in the far northwest, should Sisler continue to grow.
As in recent years, regardless of what happens with overall enrolment, the province's largest schools continue to get larger, such as a jump of 96 students at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate.
Conversely, most rural school divisions are getting smaller. McCreary-based Turtle River is down to 743 kids, smaller than most urban high schools.
Time for some math
ENROLMENT in Manitoba schools as of Sept. 30, 2011, with gains or losses from 2010 in brackets:
Total nursery to Grade 12: 198,100 (+1,520)
Public schools and First Nations schools administered by public school divisions: 181,329 (+1,354)
Independent schools accepting public funding: 13,837 (-10)
Independent schools declining public funding: 1,118 (-1)
Home schooling: 1,816 (+177)
Biggest gains and losses of students in Manitoba's public school divisions between Sept. 30, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011:
Seven Oaks +427
Park West +247
Portage la Prairie +74
Pembina Trails +62
Seine River +54
Rolling River -113
Swan Valley -71
Prairie Spirit -49
Pine Creek -47
Mystery Lake -46
Border Land -44
Manitoba's biggest schools, with gains or losses from 2010 in brackets:
Sisler 1,845 (+63)
Maples 1,603 (+94)
Kelvin 1,373 (-1)
Sturgeon Heights 1,372 (+9)
Steinbach Regional 1,343 (+3)
Garden City 1,334 (+35)
Vincent Massey (Winnipeg) 1,278 (+94)
Garden Valley (Winkler) 1,271 (-45)
Lord Selkirk Regional 1,270 (-4)
Kildonan East 1,267 (+17)
Winnipeg's smallest schools, with gains or losses from 2010 in brackets:
Chapman 75 (-6)
Sherwood 93 (+1)
Parc la Salle 112 (-7)
Archwood 114 (+13)
Dr. D. W. Penner 118 (-21)
Ralph Maybank 120 (-26)
Lord Wolseley 123 (-6)
Collicutt 125 (+6)
Tuxedo Park 126 (-9)
Westgrove 128 (+5)
-- source: Department of Education enrolment report