Enrolment at Langley schools was up by more than 900 from last year, and more portables are likely on the way soon, school officials said.
“The numbers are up substantially,” said district secretary-treasurer Brian Iseli at the September meeting of the Langley Board of Education.
A preliminary count based on numbers from the schools found there were 21,666 students actually enrolled by mid-September.
According to a report Iseli presented to the school board in September, the district had budgeted for 20,996 students for the 2021/22 school year.
The district’s “conservative” estimate was a 237 student increase on the previous year, which means that more than 900 new students have actually arrived in Langley since last year, said Iseli.
Iseli said he’s never seen an increase like that in Langley, the equivalent of adding approximately two full elementary schools worth of students in a year.
The numbers were broken down based on Kindergarten to Grade 5 elementary schools, Kindergarten to Grade 7, middle schools, and high schools, as well as separate numbers for the Langley Fundamental schools and Langley Fine Arts.
The only area that saw fewer students than expected was the Fundamental Elementary and Middle schools, which had 1,117 students, 11 fewer than the district had budgeted for.
Langley Fine Arts had 854 students, the same number as budgeted.
Meanwhile, Kindergarten to Grade 5 schools in Willoughby alone saw 147 more students than estimated.
Other K-5 elementary schools in Langley had 134 more students than in the budget projection.
Middle schools saw 159 more students, and secondary schools linked to the middle school system were up by 67 students.
In total, students in the elementary-middle school-high school stream saw 507 more students than in the previous budget.
For students attending K-7 and 8-12 schools, there were 186 more students than expected.
“Other programs” saw an increase of 18 students compared to the preliminary budget.
Meanwhile the number of homeschooling students in the district dropped , from 140 at the end of September last year to 71 this year, cutting the numbers almost in half. It’s still far higher than the 10 to 15 students seen in the years before COVID.
Although much of the growth was seen in Willoughby, Iseli said it was spread broadly across almost every neighbourhood, and many schools that have had very stable enrolments in recent years saw sudden jumps.
He noted that Belmont Elementary, in Brookswood, hasn’t seen significant changes in years. It was up by 25 students this year.
Trustees Shelley Coburn and Charlie Fox both had questions about what the big increase in students meant for space in schools.
R.E. Mountain, which was new two years ago, Nicomekl Elementary and Shortreed are all getting near their limits and will likely need portables soon, Iseli said.
Coburn was critical of the provincial government’s funding formula, which she said is not sufficient to allow Langley to create new schools as fast as needed.
The district had one new elementary open this year, Donna Gabriel Robins Elementary in Willoughby.
But Coburn said that rapid development in Langley City is also bringing in a lot of new families and will soon make things difficult for schools like Nicomekl.
There are plans to expand Nicomekl already, but it may still need portables, Iseli said.
It’s uncertain exactly why there are so many more students this year, but Iseli said Chilliwack is also seeing a big increase this year.
The growth may be linked to the changes many people made during the pandemic, when people switched to working at home and sought out larger yards. Real estate sales in Langley and neighbouring communities surged during the first summer of the pandemic and the buying frenzy continued into 2021.
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