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Parents line up for Yaletown school spaces

Blog by Ian Watt | January 8th, 2008

About 40 parents braved the rain and the cold, lining up overnight Sunday and early Monday morning outside Yaletown's Elsie Roy Elementary, in hopes of registering their children for one of 40 kindergarten spaces next school year.

Monday was the first day of registration at the downtown school, and by 2 p.m., more than 62 students were on the list, well above the number that could be accommodated in the two kindergarten classes.

Dozens of condo towers built over the past decade have transformed the downtown Vancouver neighborhood from an industrial warehouse district into one of the city's newest and most densely populated residential areas.

Elsie Roy Elementary School, near the Roundhouse Community Centre, was opened in 2004 with a catchment area only three blocks wide. By 2006, it was no longer able to meet the demand for spaces.

As they waited in line in the cold rain on Monday morning, frustrated parents told CBC News that it was obvious the school district should have built a larger school.

"It's been known for many, many years that there was going to be a huge neighbourhood here," said Ian McLeod, who was hoping to get a space for his daughter. "Thousands of people, thousands of condos, two and three bedroom condominiums. You can't tell me they didn't know that was going to happen."

Meanwhile, as McLeod waited at the Yaletown school, his wife was lined up at their second-choice school, across the Burrard bridge in Kitsilano, in case they did not get their first choice.
Despite the growing number of families moving into the rapidly developed neighbourhood, the chairman of the Vancouver school board said he was shocked to learn from the CBC News on Monday morning that parents lined up overnight to reserve a space for their children, he said.

"I didn't realize we were in that situation with our kindergarten parents," said chairman Clarence Hansen.

It's the first time Hansen has heard of parents lining up to register for a non-French immersion public school, he said. In the past, parents across Vancouver have lined up to secure spaces in French immersion programs for their children.

But the parents lined-up in the rain Monday morning told CBC News the school board shouldn't be surprised by the lineup because there was a lineup last year as well for the kindergarten.

Hansen says he wasn't on the school board when Elsie Roy was built but that he doubted it was possible for the school board to anticipate the problem.

"I don't think there is any way we could have anticipated people were going to want to move into high-rise apartments with their families," said Hansen. "It's a different lifestyle now, and people are moving that way."

The Vancouver school board was already planning to begin a public review of its facilities this week to determine which schools may be closed on account of declining enrollment in some neighbourhoods and where new schools might be built in the future. However, nothing will change in time for the next school year.


Last Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 | 11:19 AM ET