News / Calgary

Calgary Catholic parents camp overnight in hopes of enrolling kids for kindergarten

Parents hoping to enrol their youngsters in a crowded southwest Calgary Catholic school camped overnight in sub-zero temperatures to hold their spots at the front of the line.

The dedicated effort, generally more reserved for music lovers hoping to obtain coveted concert tickets, comes as officials have painted bleak pictures for suburban families hoping to have their kids educated close to home.

Calgary Catholic School District officials confirmed three parents hoping to sign their kids up for kindergarten at John Costello School, located along Strathcona Drive SW, arrived at 6 p.m. Sunday and stayed until the doors open and registration began Monday morning.

A photo apparently depicting the kindergarten camp-out circulated on social media Monday. It shows three people dressed head-to-toe in warm clothing and sitting in lawn chairs. The trio also appeared to be running a heating device using a propane tank.

CCSD spokesperson Sean Myers said a few more parents joined the group around midnight and about 20 had gathered by the time principal arrived to open the school.

Unlike the Calgary Board of Education, Catholic schools have not turned to lotteries to determine student enrolment in packed schools, but Myers said it wasn't clear if parents at the front of Costello's enrolment line would have a better shot of signing their kids up.

"We were actually surprised a few parents did that, but certainly the school didn't ask them to do that," Myers said of the camp-out.

Efforts to reach the parents involved were unsuccessful Monday, but an area superintendent warned in notices posted to the school website last week that restrictions were being placed on enrolment for the 2014-15 school year in response to surging student numbers in Calgary's west end.

Priority was given to families with another child already attending the school and a wait lists would be developed "as necessary," according to the notice from CCSD official Richard Svoboda.

Kindergarten registration also began at CBE schools Monday and director of planning and transportation Darlene Unruh said 100 of the organization's 225 schools have been provided with information about the potential impacts of enrolment lotteries to be held at their school or one nearby.

"When we're looking at the pressure points, there is no area of the city that this will not be impacting," she said of the organization's student surge in recent years.

Unruh said one of the reasons her organization turned to lotteries was to avoid having parents line up on campus on registration day.

"We wanted a more systemic approach to how we would deal with registration for all our parents, so they wouldn't feel the time crunch of first come, first serve."

Even still, some parents expressed confusion or frustration over the enrolment process.

Lindsay Landry only just learned her four-year-old son Chase will be entered into a lottery to determine whether he's accepted to Olympic Heights School, also located on Strathcona Drive.

"You could almost throw a ball from our house and hit it (the school)," she said. "We couldn't believe were third priority to get in."

Unruh encouraged all parents to follow updates on their respective community school websites and contact administrators there for the "best information." The CBE's main organization website also details enrolment and lottery procedures for all schools.

Both Calgary public and Catholic school officials have pulled no punches in describing the capacity issues being faced in schools around the city, but a new elementary school announced by the province last month for the community of Aspen Woods will directly aid issues at Costello, Myers noted.

He said any parents unsuccessful in registering at John Costello will see their youngsters shipped four kilometres east to St. Michael School.

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