Time for a fair approach to New Westminster's Programs of Choice

The New Westminster School District is currently consulting the community regarding the creation of catchments for their French Immersion and Montessori Programs of Choice.

I am disappointed they aren’t also looking at changing the enrolment process for these programs.

Currently, families are able to register their newborns for these programs as soon as a birth certificate is available. These programs thus rely on a first-come first-served basis, meaning that children residing in New Westminster since birth are the ones with the best chance of getting in. There is also a priority for siblings, which is sensible, but the remaining spots available are skewed towards children born early in a given year, or from families with housing and job security, who already know about the current enrolment process through word of mouth.

This process greatly privileges a certain subset of people, and with constant over-demand for these programs, it is the burden of the school district administrators to ensure that the available spots are distributed in a fair and impartial manner.

I understand that the present process was put in place to avoid having folks camping out for registration day. However, nowadays other school districts in the Lower Mainland have moved to an online registration process that happens in conjunction with kindergarten registration in the spring prior to the school year of enrolment. This system would completely bypass any physical difficulties with registration, and would also allow for all children irrespective of their birth date or length of residency in the school district to have an equal chance of getting into these programs.

Since the New Westminster school district plans to contact all those on the current priority enrollment list to inform them of the catchment changes, it would make sense to also implement a much-needed change to our enrolment process that puts us in line with what our neighbours are doing and is fair for all who live here.

For a city that otherwise welcomes newcomers and embraces 21st century diversity, the school district’s registration policies indicate a clear need for a more purposeful and inclusive plan of action.

Please join me in sending feedback to space@sd40.bc.ca or leave a message at 604-517-6111.

This is where the district is asking for comments to be directed.

Mona Boucher

New Westminster

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