PORT McNEILL—Having just announced an historic Memorandum of Understanding which brings dual-credit courses to North Island Secondary Schools through North Island College, School District 85 Superintendent Scott Benwell shared a second MOU that is currently providing access to a Criminology 101 dual-credit course.
“We’ve partnered with SD84, Vancouver Island West, and SD69, Qualicum-Parksville, because we’re some of the smaller school districts in North Island College’s service area, and we never get dual-credit courses on our schedule. So, at the superintendents’ meeting we sat around and complained a bit, then we said, ‘Let’s do something about it.’”
Agreeing to split the cost of the course for their respective secondary school students, the three districts signed the memorandum that delivers the class on the schools’ semester system and timetable, rather than on NIC’s schedule.
“It costs us $3,000-some to put this on; we recoup that through credits. We’re starting slowly with this partnership, but I think it represents something that we can really do together.”
After losing only five students between 2012-13 and 2013-14, SD85 schools are down 41 students from a year ago, to 1,342.
The good news is, the district’s enrolment numbers are almost precisely what was projected when the district established its projected enrolment last spring.
“We’ve clearly got to do a better job,” Benwell joked. “We were out by .69 of a student with our projection, which makes our life so much easier, for this year at least.”
Enrolment projections are used to establish preliminary budgets for the district under the provincial per-student funding model. SD85 overall enrolment continues to dip, and the loss of funding protection once offered by the province in the coming years means that student-teacher ratios in the classrooms will continue a slow creep upward, Benwell said.
Total staffing in the district slipped to 99.42 this year from 103.74 in the last school year, while student-to-teacher ratio edged up to 13.49 from 13.33.
“Coming out of funding protection, we anticipate that number will continue to climb,” he said.