Gull Lake School enrollment figures roar

BY KIT SIMPSON, GULL LAKE ADVANCE
When enrollment figures go up, schools get happy. When they go down, schools get sad.
Right now, Gull Lake School is sporting a great big smile.
The year started with roughly 30 new students, and although Chantie Champigny Lucyk, the school’s principal, says that enrollment figures change “almost daily,” the number has remained high.
This is in stark contrast to the enrollment across the Chinook division, which was reported as having dropped slightly in September 2012 as compared to the year before. Some schools, such as Shaunavon, Eastend and Frontier remained steady, but others, including Gull Lake rose.
One interesting comparison is that of Shaunavon’s public and high schools with Gull Lake’s combined school. While Shaunavon is generally considered to be “booming,” its enrollment figures remain strangely flat. Gull Lake’s enrollment, on the other hand, is steadily increasing. According to figures from the Ministry of Education’s Active List of Saskatchewan Schools (which vary slightly from other official figures due to reporting times), Gull Lake’s enrollment has increased from 249 in 2008 to 290 in 2012. During this same period, the two schools in Shaunavon have actually dropped slightly from 349 to 343.
Kyle McIntyre, Deputy Director of Chinook SD 211 (whose signature line is “Chinook Rocks!”) told us that “Gull Lake, like Oman and Ashley Park Schools in Swift Current, has experienced an enrollment increase in the last three years. Our greatest growth by community over this period of time is Swift Current.” Oman has seen its enrollment rise from 307 in 2008 to 374 in 2012, while Ashley Park’s has risen from 193 to 260 over the same period (ref. Active List of Saskatchewan Schools).
But enrollment increase in these areas does not make for enrollment increase across the board. “Overall, division-wide in spite of growth in Swift Current and Gull Lake, we have maintained a student population of 6111,” said McIntyre.
While this figure may be an average, there has been a small but not insignificant decrease in enrollment across the entire division from at least 2008. Returning to the figures from the Active List of Saskatchewan Schools, the division had 6,142 students in 2008 which had declined to 5992 by 2010. Since then, however, it has started to increase somewhat with 2011 showing 6020 students and 2012 showing 6040.
In general, though, while enrollment may not be declining to any great degree, neither is it increasing to any great degree, and some schools are facing a drop.
“The schools where we anticipate a declining enrolment next year are MCCS, Val Marie, Success, and Cabri,” McIntyre said.
Gull Lake’s enrollment increase has been phenomenal, but Champigny Lucyk believes that along with the school’s great academic programs the town itself deserves some of the credit.
“There are people moving in,” she said in a previous interview. “They’re coming in for work. It’s cheaper housing than Swift Current. There’s lots of work out there. There’s not a lot of work in Ontario and B.C. and Alberta.”
How long this can keep up, however, is anyone’s guess, and the projected figures provided by McIntyre show next year’s enrollment for Gull Lake as essentially the same as this year. Gull Lake School draws about 29 students from the Webb district and 20 from Tompkins, which means that as the populations of those towns rise or fall, so too may the enrollment figures for Gull Lake.
Residents of small towns are all too familiar with the sudden changes in fortune that their local schools can undergo. An infusion of families moving in, or a radical new program (such as employed by Hazlet) can see a failing school suddenly turn around and gain new life. Likewise, a previously successful school may find itself closed down as the town’s population declines.
At the moment Gull Lake School is on a roll, and we hope it will continue. Certainly it’s in no danger for the foreseeable future. Its excellent academic programs along with the reputation enjoyed by its teachers and staff remain drawing cards for miles around. And if hoped-for developments in the town go forward they could spell a resurgence of even more families moving in, thereby keeping the school moving in an upward direction.
For right now all we have to have to say is congratulations.
And also, of course, “Go Lions, Go!”

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