The Prairie South School District is off to a great start to the 2022-2023 school year, seeing an increase in student enrollment compared to last year.
Ryan Boughen, the school’s director of education, says as of last week, there were 52 more students than anticipated.
“We’re in a good place,” says Boughen. “Last year we increased the number of students by 185 over the target, so there was a significant increase last year. Part of the concern would be that some of that increase would go away, so we’re really happy that it hasn’t gone away and we’re still a little bit higher.”
Boughen explained that most of the increase was seen in the department’s high schools, which could be attributed to the larger class sizes of junior high schools entering ninth grade.
“At our three city high schools and not so much at Assiniboia Composite High School, they are pretty flat. Elsewhere, they are a little up here and a little there. Overall, the population is pretty consistent with what it was last year, with the exception that we definitely had some spikes in our high schools.”
Another possible reason for the increased student enrollment is that children were able to return to a regular classroom learning environment for the first time in two years.
Boughen expressed his excitement for students returning to school and being able to reconnect with classmates and teachers.
“I am very excited. Last year was my first year and for many years I was dealing with COVID-19 like everyone else. It’s kind of a second round, but then again, it’s kind of a first year. It’s nice to experience a more normal start.”
Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced students to swap their textbooks for laptops and learn virtually. At the height of COVID, PSSD found a solution to ensure that students’ education is their first priority in all classrooms.
“The administration asked us to expand our virtual school. We had a virtual school that ran from 10th to 12th grade. The board was concerned that we would have some students unable to attend due to COVID or other reasons. We expanded our virtual school and so we ran our virtual school from 1st to 12th grade.”
This gave students who were unable to attend face-to-face classes a way to still get their education through their virtual school.
Boughen adds that the virtual school is still operating, but now it doesn’t have the same population as it did last year.
“It’s great to have students back in school connecting with staff and their peers and learning face-to-face.”
Now that COVID-19 is somewhat behind us, Boughen adds that the first month of school attendance is going well, but the school department is facing new challenges.
“There are other things going on with regards to student illness. Students have sinus and throat infections and other things not related to COVID. This is a somewhat more typical school year, in which we had some more normal challenges.”