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Rural school explores options for boosting enrollment

Written on March 19th, 2008

Area troubled by declining student population

The Board of Directors for John Knox Christian School (JKCS) in Wyoming, Ontario, is beginning to explore options for boosting student enrollment.

From 162 students 12 years ago, the school has gradually dropped to a population of 78 this year.

The numbers line up with what is happening in both the separate and public schools in the area, according to principal Ymko Boersma.

Located in a small town with a mainly rural population base, the John Knox school, along with the public and separate schools, has been affected by a number of factors.

One of these is that southwestern Ontario, including Sarnia, has become economically stagnant in the last 15 years, according to Boersma.

“That means young families are moving elsewhere to find work.”

Boersma cites the reduction in average family size over the past decade or two as well as the increasing cost of attending independent schools as other factors. The growth of the home-schooling movement has also had repercussions on the school’s population.

The principal speculates 10 families or so in the area, which would have been ardent supporters of the Christian school a generation ago now teach their children at home.

However, the board is beginning to look at how to draw remaining potential families to the school.

JKCS has opened its doors to students from the international community and currently has one student attending from another country with the hope this will lead to other international families.

The board is also now committing for the first time ever to a significant fundraising campaign in the upcoming school year, which will be used to support the school budget and make tuition more manageable.

Options are also being explored for how the school can draw students from a wider variety of backgrounds without compromising the founding tenants of the school.

Boersma notes that to date most of the students have come from traditional Christian school backgrounds.

The school is also looking into an initiative to allow businesses and individuals to make grants either to the school as a whole or for various projects, such as maintenance.

Boersma is candid that the Wyoming school probably could have started actively addressing its enrollment concerns earlier than it has.

“We’re certainly not as far along in coming up with means of attracting new students as some of the urban schools,” he says.

However, the school community is committed to ensuring the school not only survives but thrives and ongoing debate about the best way to do that is part of the process.

To learn more about John Knox Christian School in Wyoming, visit www.wyomingjkcs.com.