The Strait Regional School Board (SRSB) is wrapping up the first few months in a new home.
Earlier this year, the head office moved from its long-time Port Hastings location to SAERC on Reeves Street in Port Hawkesbury.
“It has been a very busy year with a number of initiatives,” SRSB Superintendent of Schools Ford Rice said in a year-end conversation.
The SRSB recently passed its budget, which included a 2.6 per increase in general funding, along with monies for “targeted initiatives.”
Rice noted the timing of its approval – later than usual – was due to the spring provincial election.
This year, the SRSB has added 19 teachers and five teacher assistants.
As for enrolment, there are 6,197 students – a drop of 46 from last year.
Over the past few years, Rice noted, the declines have been similar, with a 37 drop in 2016-17.
“That trend continues,” Rice said of the decreases, noting there has been a “leveling off” in recent years.
He noted the decline in other years – 161 in 2011-12 – and 179, in 2013-14.
Rice added the drop has been as many as 200 to 300 in other years.
Noting primary registration for next year is slated for mid-January, he said the board estimates the drop in student enrolment should be similar.
“They continue to work diligently to provide excellent opportunities [for students,” Rice said, when asked about teachers and staff with the board, adding they “go above and beyond.”
For students, he noted, provincial assessments have been strong.
“We are proud of that,” Rice said.
The superintendent reflected on the success of the SRSB’s eight pre-primary sites across the region, a number second only to the Halifax Regional School Board.
He said the “play-based learning approach,” one that focuses on areas such as literacy, numeracy and socialization, are helping prepare children for Grade Primary.
“It has been a very good program,” Rice said of the initiative, which includes 117 students in the SRSB.
“We are hoping to expand,” he added.
Rice noted the interaction with other grade levels – and students – through “reading buddies” and other programs has also been beneficial.
As for the SRSB’s participation in the Nova Scotia International Student Program, he said it is “continuing to grow.”
Rice added work in the past five years or so has “really paid off.”
This year, there are 97 students – from 20 countries – who attend 11 schools.
“We have the highest growth in the province,” Rice said.
He noted students can be in the region anywhere from four weeks to 10 months.
“Our issue is finding host parents,” Rice said.
Five years ago, there were 30 international students.
“We are really pleased [with the growth],” Rice said.
He agreed the international student experience is “mutually beneficial” with SRSB students and staff “sharing and learning” with the visitors.
During a recent working committee meeting, Rice noted, some international students came and visited the board, sharing foods from their homelands.
“It was a really nice event,” he said.
Getting back to finances, Rice said the SRSB is “on track” for another balanced budget.
“It is very important for us to be efficient with our money because we want to have as much as we can for students in the classroom,” he added.
As for cost savings, Rice touched on the aforementioned move of head office, which will garner more than $100,000 savings, annually.
“It has gone very well,” Rice said of the relocation.
He added the benefits go beyond the financial.
“It is nice [for us] to be located in a school, which reminds us of the importance of the work that we do,” Rice said.
For more information about the SRSB, visit www.srsb.ca