Enrollment at the WQSB expected to decline

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Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

Although West Quebec’s population is expected to increase over the next couple of decades, enrolment for the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) is anticipated to decline; according to data unveiled by l’Institut de la statistique du Québec
last fall, West Quebec’s population is expected to reach 462,820 by 2036,

Laurent Robillard-Cardinal

Although West Quebec’s population is expected to increase over the next couple of decades, enrolment for the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) is anticipated to decline; according to data unveiled by l’Institut de la statistique du Québec
last fall, West Quebec’s population is expected to reach 462,820 by 2036,
representing a 23.8% growth. Meanwhile, registration at the WQSB is expected to fall below 6,000 during the 2025-2026 school year from this year’s 6,669.
“The issue of projected enrolment is one that always concerns us. While there may be an overall decline in student population, we anticipate an increase in the urban areas, thus creating a facilities concern. We are also quite concerned about the reduction in rural areas,” WQSB Chairman James Shea told the Journal. The de-population of rural areas will force the WQSB to adapt as it continues dealing with a shifting population.
“Our challenge is to
continually provide quality service to all of our students. There are concerns regarding transportation and time spent in transit in rural areas while there are capacity issues in the city; most Gatineau schools are pretty much at capacity,” indicated Shea. Therefore, the WQSB will eventually need to build new schools in the urban sector or expand the existing ones. However, in years to come, schools outside the city will become underutilized and costs to maintain aging buildings will only increase as the Board’s budget is reduced.
With a decreasing
student population, school taxes, an important source of funding, will also decrease. Each year,
the Ministère de l’Éducation, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche (MEESR) allows school boards to set tax rates based on student enrolment and assessed evaluation.
According to demographic projections developed by the Direction de la recherche, des statistiques et des indicateurs (DRSI), the decline in enrolment at the WQSB will take place gradually over the next decade, with the biggest decline at the elementary level. Student population at the secondary level is
estimated to increase slightly over the next decade but will drop considerably
during the last three
projected school years.