Enrolment boom crams Brandon schools

A population boom in Brandon is putting a squeeze on classroom space.

A population boom in Brandon is putting a squeeze on classroom space.

Enrolment in the city's schools has skyrocketed thanks to an influx of new immigrants.

Five years ago, there were 100 EAL (English as an Additional Language) students in the Brandon School Division. Today, there are 1,182.

Now school officials are calling on the Manitoba government to help. School board chair Mark Sefton has been lobbying for a new school to be built in the community to keep up with demand.

"We'd actually like to have a new school built. We don't want to disadvantage any kids by trying to cram them in like sardines in a can," he said.

He met with provincial officials two weeks ago but has been told any such funding decision will be up to the Public Schools Finance Board.

The growth started when Brandon's largest employer, Maple Leaf Foods, began actively recruiting workers from overseas, Sefton said.

Those workers are now permanent residents who are bringing their families to Brandon.

In 2001, just 69 immigrants had moved to Brandon. By 2007, 642 made Brandon their new home, and by 2010 that number jumped to more than 1,400.

The bulk of those new immigrants speak Spanish, Mandarin, or Russian.

Schools have increased staffing levels in recent years but it only adds to the space problem.

The division has sent a funding request to the Public Schools Finance Board but there is no word on when any decision will be made.