By BERNIE BELLAN
After seven years of almost steady declines in enrolment at Gray Academy, the school has reversed that trend this year, with the total number of students now standing at 494 – as opposed to last year’s figure (at year’s end) of 470 students.

 

 


(When we reported on school enrolments last October, we reported that Gray Academy had 466 students. That information was taken from Gray Academy’s Facebook page, as we were told last year that Gray Academy would not respond to our request for enrolment figures.)
The enrolment figure of 494 represents the most number of students – from junior kindergarten through Grade 12, that Gray Academy has had since 2015, when there were 501 students enrolled. Since that year, enrolments were: 486 in 2016, 466 in 2017, and 466 in 2018.
The school did have in the neighbourhood of 600 students from 2009-2013, but the 2014 school year marked a precipitous decline in enrolment – from 590 in 2013 to 500 in 2014. Ever since, Gray Academy’s enrolment has been hovering below the 500 figure.
It is interesting to note, however, that when Gray Academy first opened in September 1997, it had 842 students, which is 41% more than currently. When we met with representatives of Gray Academy on Friday, September 20 to discuss reasons that enrolment has increased substantially this school year, we did ask how on earth the school ever managed to accommodate 842 students, given that it had no more space than it currently holds?
We suggested that there might be surplus space that could be given over to the Rady JCC to add another day care, for instance. We were invited to take a tour of the school to see that the school is utilizing its space efficiently and to see that there is no possibility of giving up any space.
As far as why enrolment at Gray Academy is up this year, we were offered a number of reasons for the increase, including:
• Of the number of students who were eligible to return for the current school year, only 17 chose not to; in the two previous school years, the comparable figures were 29 and 33. The school refers to this “retention rate” as the key reason for the increase in enrolment this year.
• While a number of students left the school because their families left Winnipeg (17), that figure was similar to numbers for the previous two school years: 16 and 21.
• There are actually 88 new students in the school. As one might expect, a good portion of those students are either in junior kindergarten or kindergarten (48 students), but there are also 20 new students in Grades 1-6 and 20 new students in Grades 7-12.
Prior to our meeting with representatives from Gray Academy, we had asked for detailed information about where the new students were coming from.
We were given the following information:
From Independent (which could include schools such as St. John’s Ravenscourt, Balmoral Hall, St. Mary’s Academy, and St. Paul’s Collegiate) – 2
From Oholei Torah (at the Jewish Learning Centre, run by the Lubavitch movement) – 2
From Hebrew Bilingual (Brock Corydon) – 5. We asked whether all five students entered into Grade 7. We were told that three of them had, but that two others were in younger grades, as their parents wanted them to be in the same school as their siblings who had gone into Grade 7.
From other public schools – 11
From another city in Canada – 2
New to Canada – 22
International students – 5
One of the most interesting facts to emerge from our meeting at Gray Academy was that four students in the high school (which includes Grades 7-12) had returned to Gray Academy after having attended another school the previous year.
One other aspect of the enrolment at Gray Academy that was shown to us during our meeting on September 20 is how widely distributed geographically the student population is. We were handed a map that showed where students live in Winnipeg. As one might expect, the largest proportion is concentrated in the River Heights, Tuxedo, Lindenwoods, and Whyte Ridge areas. There are also significant numbers in the Charleswood and Bridgewater areas of Winnipeg, with smaller numbers in south-east Winnipeg and Transcona – and very few in the north part or the city.
One other question that we did ask in an email a few days after the Sept. 20 meeting was: How many students at Gray Academy aren’t Jewish?
The answer, as sent to me by Andrea Ritter, who is the new Director, Marketing and Communications at the school, was “Approximately 5% of our student population is not Jewish.”
Insofar as reporting enrolment figures in the Hebrew Bilingual program at Brock Corydon is concerned, we are told that those figures will not be available until after Sept. 30. We hope to have them in our Oct. 16 issue.