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Catholic school board reports nearly 600 additional students enrolled this year

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board is reporting higher enrolment for the school year that just began. (ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO POSTMEDIA NETWORK)

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board is reporting higher enrolment for the school year that just began. (ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO POSTMEDIA NETWORK)

Housing prices aren’t the only thing rising in Simcoe County.

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board enrolment has increased by 499 students at the elementary level and 68 students at the secondary level for the current school year.

Overall, the number of students currently registered to attend the board’s 50 schools in Simcoe County and the Districts of Muskoka and Parry Sound has risen to 21,338.

The board welcomed 1,332 junior kindergarten students, which is roughly 100 more than last year, with grade 9 enrolment climbing by about 25 to 1,720 total students for the 2017-18 school year.

Board spokesperson Pauline Stevenson said the board is seeing growth throughout its coverage area with higher than projected increases seen in communities like Bradford, Angus, Tottenham, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach.

“We are expecting the growth to continue, but it will really depend on the housing development,” Stevenson said.

But the heightened enrolment combined with recent retirements, resignations and promotions has also affected the board’s payroll.

Since the start of the year, the board has hired 121 new permanent employees, including 60 new elementary and 35 secondary teachers, 17 educational assistants and nine office and clerical staff.

“This is an exciting time for our board,” board chair Carol Corriveau Truchon said in a release.

“We are coming out of several years of declining enrolment and related funding pressures, a trend which was felt province-wide. We did anticipate growth in some of our communities this year, but this increase is beyond what we projected.”

With the new hires, the board now employs 1,319 teachers (450 secondary and 869 elementary) as well 328 educational assistants and 99 DECEs (designated early-childhood educators).

Stevenson said the board’s wish list submitted recently to the province’s education ministry includes the building of new elementary schools in Alliston and Bradford.

“Those would be our two top priorities,” Stevenson said, noting the board isn’t releasing at this time other desired capital projects that could involve possible expansions at its existing schools.

And while the board closed its Honey Harbour school in June, there are no plans for any accommodation reviews of student numbers at any other board schools, according to Stevenson.

Stevenson said many of the 14 Honey Harbour students have transferred to St. Antoine Daniel Catholic School in Victoria Harbour.

“Our school facility is now being used by the Trillium Lakelands District School Board,” she said, noting that board is leasing the vacant space from its Catholic counterpart for its Honey Harbour school.

andrewphilips@live.ca