VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It appears most school boards in the Lower Mainland will be dealing with a slight dip in enrolment this year. Now, at least one school board chair wants to keep better tabs on where students go when they leave the public system.

Patti Bacchus with the Vancouver School Board says she won’t know for sure until the end of the month, but it looks like her district will have about 500 fewer students this year.

“It’s often difficult for us to know where they have gone,” says Bacchus. “Have they left the country?  Have they gone to home school? Have they just dropped out? Have they gone to an independent school, or in some cases, possibly enrolled in online courses in a different district? We really don’t have an effective process in place to track that.”

Bacchus adds many secretary treasurers from Lower Mainland school districts are predicting declines in enrolment. She believes finding out why should be more of a priority.

“Every student has a Personal Education Number and I think that would be a tool,” explains Bacchus. “[We need] a centralized system, which is used by most school districts, or some mechanism to follow up. So, when students don’t return, we’ll know where they have gone, why they made that choice and ensure they’re getting appropriate support with a proper educational program.”

She believes a better tracking system would paint a clearer picture of whether parents pulled their students out of public school because they’re concerned about the ongoing contract dispute between the BC Teachers Federation and the province.

Bacchus says cuts to staffing have made it difficult to do exit interviews with parents.