A drop in foreign student enrolment could cost Central Okanagan Public Schools millions of dollars in revenue. Superintendent Kevin Kaardal, shown here, will provide an update on the re-opening of schools to trustees at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Twenty new teachers have been hired by Central Okanagan Public Schools to connect with an estimated 700 students who’ll learn from home this fall. 

In an update to trustees on school re-openings, superintendent Kevin Kaardal also notes that foreign student enrolment in the district has plunged because of the pandemic. 

“This will be a very challenging year due to COVID-19 and the associated border closures and travel restrictions,” Kaardal writes in a report going to trustees at their Wednesday night meeting. 

Almost 600 students had intended to come to Kelowna-area schools this fall, but only 157 have so far arrived. Another 247 still plan on coming but cannot currently get into Canada. 

About 200 of the students who had intended to come have cancelled their registration or deferred their enrolment until the 2021-2022 school year. 

The drop in foreign students will deprive the school district of millions of dollars in revenue. Last year, the district collected $5.4 million in fees from the families of foreigners. Some of the money goes toward hiring teachers whose positions might not otherwise be funded. 

This fall, Central Okanagan Public Schools will employ 3,500 people, including 1,800 teachers, 1,570 support staff, and 90 principals and vice principals.

The list includes 20 new teachers hired to oversee distance learning programs, the uptake of which has increased significantly due to some parents keeping their children home because of concerns about the ongoing pandemic. 

Based on the current pace of registration for e-learning options, Kaardal estimates about 700 students, or three per cent of the district’s total enrolment, will learn from home this fall. Places at schools are guaranteed for these children only until mid-November.