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School tackles enrollment challenges

Written on February 1st, 2008

Engages church leadership to hike awareness 

Northumberland Christian School in Cobourg has been facing a steady decline in enrollment for the past seven years, according to principal Cindy Warr. She says public schools in the region are dealing with similar issues with one closing recently and others considering amalgamation.

While the Northumberland school is able to replace its graduates most of the time, it has been struggling to replace families who leave for other reasons, whether those are financial, philosophical or due to relocation.

The school board is now actively tackling the enrollment issue. An important first step was “just to face it and recognize this is an issue and it has to be addressed,” says the principal. She notes that enrollment accounts for 80 per cent of the school budget.

Two years ago the board formed a community relations committee, which works to raise awareness about Christian education in general and the Northumberland school in particular.

“One of our goals is just to have everybody know we’re here and we’re an option,” says Warr. “We’ve been striving to be everywhere people are.”

The school is represented at a large number of community events now. For instance, it has a float in the local parade and has entered a team in the local Relay for Life.

The school has also advertised in most community publications and put up posters at the library.

“It’s just about trying to be very visible in the community,” says Warr. “Our goal is that every time people turn around they would see something that reminded them of Northumberland school.”

The community relations committee has focused a lot of its effort on strengthening relationships with churches in the area.

The school has hosted two ministerial teas in which church leaders, either pastors or other representatives, are invited to the school for coffee and snacks, followed by a tour of the school, presentations from the students as well as a talk by committee-members.

Warr believes the committee’s activities have been very successful to date. She points as evidence to the fact that three churches recently pledged to support the school financially on a long-term basis.

“That must mean they’re aware of us, our mission, and what we’re trying to do,” she says.

The ministerial teas appear to be particularly effective in garnering support.

The school is also now launching an ambassador program to support its community relations work. Different people have agreed to represent the school at their church and to ensure the school and its various events are well-promoted; that posters are up, the pastor is aware of what’s happening at the school, and various people are invited to events.

The school has families from 11 different churches in the area.

The board has also made the enrollment issue a matter of prayer, Warr adds.

“We’ve really committed this to God,” she says. “We’ve accepted the fact that this is His school and He is in control of the future. We will be faithful with what He gives us and He’s faithful to us.”