Declining enrolment is squeezing school budgets in Thunder Bay and across the northwest.

With enrolment tied to funding, fewer students means less cash to go around, said David Wright, superintendent of business with the Lakehead District School Board.

David Wright

David Wright, superintendent of business with the Lakehead District School Board, says declining enrolment affects all aspects of the board's operations. (Submitted by Lakehead Public Schools)

"The impact is on all aspects of our organization: we feel the impacts in our staffing numbers, we feel the impacts with our ability to provide program[s], and with our facilities," he said.

But he said the public board is in good shape, and has not had to close a school since 2009.

Rural boards feel the funding pinch even more so.

The Northwest Catholic District School Board based in Fort Frances has seen enrolment shift away from rural schools, meaning staff meetings often consist of just a few people, said Rick Boisvert, director of education.

"So the opportunity for sharing and dialoguing among staff within a school is reduced," he said.

Rick Boisvert

Rick Boisvert, director of education with the Northwest Catholic District School Board, says enrolment has shifted away from rural schools to places like Dryden and Sioux Lookout. (Supplied)

That's forced the board to get creative, using videoconferencing to link teachers in widely dispersed schools.

"Our enrolment really is declining, but only a little bit," Boisvert said. "The bigger thing that we're seeing is that there's a shift in our enrolment, so that we have a couple of schools in Sioux Lookout and in Dryden that are getting larger," while schools in the northern part of the board lose students, he added.

"So we have declining enrolment in one portion of the board, and still enrolment that's increasing in another part of the board."

In other areas, school boards have co-operated so that public, Catholic and French classes are all under one roof.