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Aspen View wonders if vaccine mandate misinformation related to lower enrolment

Enrolment as of Sept. 30 is linked to funding from province
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Lower enrolment may have bottom line impacts on the Aspen View Public Schools budget and are still being sorted out. File

ATHABASCA — Lower enrolment numbers in Aspen View Public Schools (AVPS) could be related to false rumours about the division implementing a vaccine mandate. 

At the Oct. 7 meeting, the last with the current slate of trustees, secretary-treasurer Aimee Hirtle informed the board as of Sept. 30 total enrolment is 2,511 students, 67 lower than projected and 61 lower than the last school year. 

“The total enrolment includes 20 students that are being provided online or at-home learning opportunities,” said Hirtle.” And we also have 12 students registered for homeschooling through our division.” 

The consequences of the lower numbers haven't been felt yet, but with enrolment tied to funding from the province, it will likely have have financial implications, although that is still being determined.

“The decreased enrolment will have implications to the division, but the analysis is still being performed,” she said. 

Supt. Neil O’Shea added there are 122 pre-Kindergarten children registered and noted because Kindergarten is optional there are 142 children enrolled but more may be out in the community although not registered yet. 

“There are probably Kinders whose parents chose to keep home this year,” he said. “So, I don't think 142 is a true reflection of Kinders in our communities and I think we will see that Grade 1 number go up; we go to Kindergarten is still optional.” 

Trustee Dennis MacNeil wondered if there was a correlation between the spreading of misinformation about mandatory school vaccinations and the decline in numbers. 

“Do we have any indication of how much of impact that actually made on our numbers?” 

O’Shea said, yes there was reason to believe it could be related. 

“We do. Yeah, we do,” said O’Shea, adding it’s not entirely clear because rarely are reasons given but the uptick occurred in conjunction with the spread of false information. 

“So, I guess the comment I want to make is how easy it is to put out misinformation that can really skew reality,” MacNeil said. “That one in particular was provincewide and was so inaccurate and so detrimental.” 

O’Shea will have more detailed information per school at the Nov. 26 meeting. 

hstocking@athabasca.greatwest.ca 



Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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