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Declining enrolment could lead to shuffle for Catholic students

Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools officials have recommended all that English Grade K-7 schools become K-8 schools by Fall 2021 or 2022.

Some of the other recommended changes would see St. Joseph Catholic High School revert to a Grade 9-12 school, St. John Paul II Catholic School to grade 9-12 for English students, with the immersion students remaining Grade 8-12.

Board Chair Michael Ouellette says, while the process seems complicated, it was actually brought to the forefront because of a decline in overall enrolment by around six percent, and two new schools opening up allowing for changes to be made.

“Our numbers were down and now some of the schools aren’t as full as they used to be, so we’ll be able to move some of the students that we moved to the high school back to their original school and I think it’ll please some parents.”

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He adds, however, decisions won’t be made overnight, as they plan to gauge the needs of students, and, more specifically, how many are still going to be in the region when the changes take effect.

“We are seeing families leaving Grande Prairie, we are also seeing families doing online [learning] and maybe not within our district… we’ve definitely seen a change here. We are surveying the parents to see who is coming back, who wants to stay online, so we are really trying to figure out what our numbers are going to be for the beginning of school in September 2021.”

When it comes to new schools for the division, Ouellette says discussions surrounding programming for the replacement for St. Patrick and O’Brien Lake West under construction still need to take place. He expects consultation to continue well into February or March.

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