Why Open Schools When Enrolment Is Declining and Close Schools When Enrolment is Increasing?
by William Warren Munroe, March 25, 2014

In the last article, discrepancies between the forecast of a 31% population increase used by the health authority Medical Officer and the 0% enrolment forecast the Qualicum School District Superintendent is using to justify closing public schools were discussed.

Figure 1. Number of 5 to 14 Year Olds for the Nanaimo Regional District, 1996 to 2031

The main problem for public decision making is not being allowed to know how the forecasts are created. The assumptions, methods and data (if methods and data are used) must be made available. Understanding current trends in population change is fundamental to understanding what will likely occur if current trends continue - what if current life expectancy, fertility and net migration continue into the future?

An open transparent way to do projections is to use census numbers along with the cohort change ratios method (aka census survival ratios, a UN term). When considering enrolment, we can look at the number of school age children as required by the School Act. Since the Population Projection Project already includes the Nanaimo Regional District, let's take a look at the current trends and the medium projection results for the 5 to 14 year olds. Remember, this group is strongly tied to the number of females 20 to 39 years of age. As the number of females in this age group increases so does the number of school aged children.

The chart shows the number of 5 to 14 year olds has stopped declining and likely to turn upwards to the year 2021. In 2021 the number of 5 to 14 year olds is projected to level out to the number of 5 to 14 years seen in 2008.

As mentioned, according to Statistics Canada's Census of Population since 1996, the QSD/QLHA is attractive to adults and children (people of family age) - more move in than out. Also, the echo is aging out of high school and university and into family formation years. What does the medium scenario projection look like for those 5 to 14 years of age for the QSD / QLocal Health Area?

As mentioned, the fluctuating age distribution creates challenges for communities.

Endnotes and Sources:

1 http://www.viha.ca/NR/rdonlyres/B3614606-07A9-4004-9637-D3D23F9F2980/0/69Qualicum2011.pdf. Interestingly, my many requests to present population projections at the Town of Qualicum Beach Council meetings have been denied while accepted at international conferences.

Related Reading
Population Projections for the Parksville Census Agglomeration

Qualicum School District "Facility Review Process" November 2013 at www.sd69.bc.ca/Publications/Facility%20Review%202013%20-%20Finance%20and%20Facility%20Planning/13.11.26%20Facilities%20Review%20Presentation.pdf

See SCHOOL OPENING AND CLOSURE ORDER, BC Ministry of Education, Governance and Legislation Branch E-95 October 15, 2009, Authority: School Act, section 73 and 168 (2)(p)

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