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Hundreds of Syrian refugees add costs for New Brunswick schools

Last Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 1:40 pm MDT

FREDERICTON – The sudden influx of Syrian refugees into New Brunswick’s school system has caused the province’s Education Department to miss a financial target.

But Premier Brian Gallant says in this case, that’s not a bad problem to have.

About 650 Syrian students have enrolled in New Brunswick schools during the two-year wave of refugees that have come to Canada.

Gallant says that has stemmed a steady decline in student enrolment that goes back to 1991.

“To have more students in our schools than we originally budgeted for is a very good challenge to have. It’s to the point where it’s one of the first times we’ve seen enrolment in our schools really level off from one year to the next,” Gallant said Thursday.

According to department statistics, there were almost 141,000 students in New Brunswick schools in 1991. Last year that number was about 98,000 students.

The province is to release a quarterly financial report Friday, and The Canadian Press has learned the government is meeting most of its cost-cutting objectives, but not in education.

A government source says the Education Department is $3.5 million under target, mainly due to the additional resources needed to handle the increase in students.

School districts had to add teachers, assistants and translators in an effort to handle the additional students and language challenges.

Gallant said while there are some additional expenses now, they will pay off in the long term.

“It is good to have more people. We need New Brunswickers to be able to stay here with good jobs. We need New Brunswickers to come back here for opportunities and we also need to welcome new Canadians,” he said.