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School enrolment up across northeastern Ontario thanks to immigration

Young students

Many school boards in northeastern Ontario are reporting increased enrolment this fall, largely thanks to recent immigrants.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Déborah St-Victor

RCI

At least one school board says it's been forced to renovate buildings and hire more staff

For decades now, the classrooms of northern Ontario have been getting emptier and emptier.

Built to educate the thousands of kids during the baby boom, at the peak of the region's mines and mills, local schools have steadily been closing in recent years with fewer and fewer students.

But things look to be turning around this fall, with many school boards reporting an increase in enrolment, including the English Catholic board for Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma. 

The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board has 180 more students than last year.

Education director Danny Viotto says it's meant hiring more staff and renovating certain schools, such as the $750,000 retrofit of St. Basil's Elementary, to fit all the extra kids. 

That's one of the main areas we're focusing on, but we're going to be fine, he said. 

And we're excited, because this hasn't happened in several years.

Viotto says he and other education officials are often on pins and needles every fall to see if the student population goes up or down.

He says his board has been watching the influx of newcomers settling in the Sault for a few years now and was puzzled why they were choosing other school boards.

But they would shy away from the Catholic board because they were afraid of the tuition that they assumed would come with Catholic education because that was the reality in their countries, Viotto said.

CBC reached out to all of the school boards in the northeast regarding enrolment this fall, but didn't hear back from all of them.

The Rainbow District School Board says it has 14,285 students this fall, up about 250 from last year.

Sudbury Catholic District School Board says it has 188 more school desks filled this fall, 134 of them elementary students.

The Near North District School Board is up about 34 students, with a total population of 10,044 this fall.

The Conseil scolaire du Grand Nord— the French public board for Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding areas— is teaching 2,659 students this fall, up 25 from a year ago.

Erik White  (new window)· CBC News ·

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