ATHABASCA - As of Sept. 30, the last day student enrolment numbers are counted to determine funding, Aspen View Public Schools (AVPS) is wondering where over 170 students have gone to.
In a typical year there would be less fluctuation in the numbers, but this has not been a typical year, leaving trustees to question if 172 students are now homeschooling or if families have moved out of the division entirely.
“Typically, enrolment is tracked through student records; for example, if a student registers with another school or homeschooling provider, the receiving school will request their student records. More so this year, with the wide range of choices available to families — including options offered by Aspen View — and the higher transition rate between these options, tracking enrolment has been more challenging,” said AVPS communications officer Ross Hunter.
AVPS is not the only division hit with lower numbers and the Alberta School Board Association is assisting divisions in trying to figure out where the students went.
“We’re researching which students are no longer with Aspen View, to try to determine how and with whom their education needs are being met; other divisions are doing similar,” Hunter said. ASBA is also working with the government to ensure accountability in ensuring all students’ education needs are met.”
One of the options parents may have chosen is new in the Choice of Education Act — unsupervised and unfunded homeschooling, which would require Alberta Education informing divisions if parents utilize that option.
“A new option available to families through the Choice in Education Act is unsupervised, unfunded homeschooling programs. Parents who choose this option only need to inform Alberta Education of their intent to homeschool; they are under no obligation to inform their local school board,” said Hunter.
AVPS is supportive of a parents’ choice, but they want to ensure no child is going without access to education in some form.
“We support parents’ right to choose. However, Aspen View also continues to work hard to provide a range of educational opportunities to students and families in the communities we serve,” said Hunter. “Regardless of the decisions parents and students make during these uncertain ties, Aspen View students will always be welcome in our schools.”
It is also important for the trustees to know where the students are and understand the choices parent are making because it all comes down to finances and planning for the future.
"Lower enrolment means there is less money coming to Aspen View from Alberta Education,” said Hunter. “This requires us to make spending adjustments to cover the deficit. In tight financial times, we review spending in every department to make decisions that have the least impact on classrooms.”