School sign up rules may be altered

Mission school trustees want to eliminate registration line ups

School district registration system changes could help eliminate long lineups and give everyone a fair chance to register for a school of choice, said a board trustee.

Currently, parents can queue up outside a site for hours, and even days, to increase their chances of getting their child into a school of choice. The two offered are a traditional model at Hillside elementary, and an arts-based curriculum at Edwin S. Richards. French Immersion is also a popular choice offered at Christine Morrison and Mission Central.

This isn’t fair to single parents or those who can’t take time away from work to camp out, said trustee Jim Taylor, who is examining Langley’s model.

There, parents can sign their child up for a school as soon as they have a birth certificate, Taylor explained. “This started 25 years ago with their fundamental school, which is equivalent to a traditional school. The idea is it saves line ups.”

Early registration also helps the school district plan for classes.

Children with siblings already in the school will be admitted first, followed by students who registered earliest.

Parents determined to get their child in a certain school, will sign up right away, and someone who’s less dedicated will sign up later, Taylor noted. “The further in advance people think about it, the better chance they have of getting in.”

Those who don’t get in receive a phone call and will be given a choice to stay on the list, said Taylor, who suspects there will still be a lineup in the first year. Alternatively, parents can pre-register their child on sign up day in a lottery system and district staff can randomly draw names until classes are full.

Hillside Traditional Academy is taking advance registrations and children beginning school in 2018 are already on the roster.

Open registrations started at the school district office this past spring because the board wanted to see if a traditional school would be sustainable, explained Hillside principal Kathryn Day.

There are now 76 students who are ready to start Kindergarden in September 2014 at Hillside. That will fill more than three classrooms. Normally, registrations don’t begin until Feb. 1 and administrators don’t start planning staff levels for the following year until the spring.

Day believes parents have signed their kids up early because some have older children attending the school, and others are worried the spots will be taken.

Both Hillside and Edwin S. Richards accept students from across the district and beyond.

“We don’t have a community catchment,” said Day.

Given the school has already been taking registrations, Day doesn’t expect long line ups for the traditional school in February.

Like Hillside, E.S. Richards, was turned into a school of choice this year but families weren’t given the option to register early. Those who had hoped to send youngsters to their neighbourhood school were disappointed to learn the catchment has changed and they are required to sign up like everyone else who wants a school of choice. There are no guarantees they will get in.

“They’re the ones we’re hearing from who are the least happy,” acknowledged Taylor, who pointed out none of the schools of choice are more than a kilometre or two from the next closest school. “Those parents are in agony now and it’s not right to keep them in limbo.”

Trustees were presented with registration options at a school board meeting last week. Other methods discussed were an online registrations, phone-ins, and a lottery system.

The issue will be discussed again at the educational committee meeting in November which include parents.