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Enrolment soars at New Westminster schools

Qayqayt and Lord Kelvin elementary schools continue to see a major influx of students. But where will they all fit?
Lord Kelvin Elementary School portables
Lord Kelvin Elementary School, one of the fastest-growing schools in New Westminster, has no more room for portables on its site. Enrolment at the school has increased from 486 two years ago to 580 this fall.

Enrolment at New Westminster schools is continuing to soar — especially in the city’s core.

School District 40’s enrolment figures for 2022/23 show continued enrolment growth across the district. Overall, enrolment as of Sept. 29 stood at 7,095 students — up from 6,760 last year and 6,688 the year before that.

Leading the way for growth are École Qayqayt Elementary School, downtown, and Lord Kelvin Elementary School, next to Moody Park.

At Qayqayt, enrolment has increased from 522 students in 2020/21 to 561 students in 2021/22 to a whopping 614 this fall. At Lord Kelvin, enrolment has also risen sharply: from 486 two years ago. to 521 last year, to 580 this fall.

The middle school seeing the most enrolment growth is, not surprisingly, Fraser River Middle School — which serves both Qayqayt and Kelvin students, as well as Lord Tweedsmuir and Connaught Heights elementary schools. Fraser River has seen its enrolment grow from 539 in 2020/21 to 555 in 2021/22 to 622 this year.

Also seeing significant growth is Queen Elizabeth Elementary School, which has risen from 426 students two years ago to 487 this fall.

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Just two schools saw drops in enrolment between 2021/22 and 2022/23: Herbert Spencer Elementary, which was down one student from 492 to 491; and Glenbrook Middle School, which dropped from 677 students to 657.

“It’s shocking to see some of the numbers,” said trustee Danielle Connelly. “When you also add in there the operational capacity some of these schools, it really sheds a light on how dramatically we are in need of schools.”

Enrolment growth has been a consistent challenge for the school district, in particular with the rapid growth of the city over the past few years. Most of the district’s school sites are small, meaning there’s little room for expansion of schools or for more portables — neither Qayqayt nor Kelvin can accommodate any more portables on their sites.

The district has developed a concept plan for a new, 600-student elementary school on the Fraser River Middle School site, designed to ease the pressure on Qayqayt and Kelvin. But that plan has not yet received Ministry of Education funding, and completion of the school is likely five years away.

In the meantime, the district is undertaking a capacity review to try to figure out how to maximize use of space at its schools. 

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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