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Line up to sign up

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Close to 200 kindergarten-aged kids have been registered to begin a school of choice program in the Mission school district next September.

The one-day registration was held Monday, but about a dozen parents chose to spend part of the night outside the school district administration office Sunday to secure a place for their child.

The line up started around 10 a.m., said school board vice-chair Jim Taylor who drove by early in the morning on his way to Abbotsford for the day.

By the time he returned at 9:30 p.m. there were four people present and more trickled in throughout the night.

Taylor set up a display tent, some camping chairs, passed around muffins and bunkered down for the night outside with the rest of the parents.

He also handed out numbered cards to secure people's place in line, but he said the crowd was self-monitoring.

"No one could leave without losing their place," noted Taylor. "If you left, you had to have someone else sit in your place."

By 5 a.m. Monday morning, school district staff arrived and the crowd invited into the board office to warm up and begin the paperwork. By the time Taylor left, Edwin S. Richards, the arts based curriculum school was nearly full.

"We're suddenly a school district people want to be in," commented Taylor. Mission Public Schools has struggled with declining enrolment numbers for years and approved two new schools of choice last year. The second is a traditional school at Hillside Academy, which has also proven popular.

This week, parents were mostly signing their young ones up for French Immersion and the arts based programs because registration for Hillside has been ongoing.

This is the last year Taylor expects to see such line ups as the school district is changing its registration process and parents can sign their child up for school as soon as they have a birth certificate in hand.

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

There is no guarantee students registered will be attending their school of choice, but as many as possible will be accommodated, said school board chair Edie Heinrichs.

There are 93 students signed up for the traditional academy, 45 for French Immersion and 63 for fine arts. A Kindergarden class is maxed out at 22 students.

"The numbers look good," said Heinrichs. "There seems to be strong support for the schools of choice."

Parents will know within the next month if their child has been accepted, and those who aren't can sign up for their neighbourhood schools Feb. 3-7 at the school.

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