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New Westminster schools avoid registration lotteries for 2023/24

The school district has found enough space — just — for everyone who registered by the Jan. 27 deadline.
Qayqayt Elementary School
École Qayqayt Elementary School won't need a lottery for registration this fall after all, as SD40 has made enough space for all families who registered by the Jan. 27 deadline.

Families with children starting kindergarten in New Westminster can breathe a sigh of relief: there won’t be any lotteries for placement this fall.

School District 40 had been eyeing the possibility of lotteries for enrolment at three particularly crowded elementary schools: École Qayqayt Elementary School in the downtown, Lord Kelvin Elementary School in the Moody Park neighbourhood, and Queen Elizabeth Elementary School in Queensborough.

The district just announced that it has managed to find sufficient space at all three schools to accommodate all students who enrolled by the Jan. 27 registration deadline.

“We are happy to share news today that we will not be entering a lottery situation at any of our schools for the 2023/24 school year,” the school district said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The space crunch comes as no surprise in New Westminster, where enrolment has soared thanks to rapid growth in the city and where most of the district's school sites are too small to accommodate expansions or more portables.

On Feb. 3, the district shared the news that all eight of its elementary schools and all three middle schools were full for 2023/24. No out-of-district students are being accepted this year, and out-of-catchment transfers are only being considered in the case of siblings. At that time, SD40 had warned lotteries could be possible for Qayqayt, Lord Kelvin and Queen Elizabeth if the number of students wanting in exceeded the available space.

But today, parents received the good news: Lotteries won't be necessary after all because SD40 has managed to find space at all three schools for everyone who signed up by the deadline.

At Qayqayt, that enrolment feat was only made possible by the creation of two new classrooms at the school come September — space that's being converted from former community use by New West Family Place into classrooms.

The district is also continuing to work on creating more classroom space at both Qayqayt and Fraser River Middle School by converting daycare space into classrooms. That plan has come with its own share of controversy, as downtown-area parents have raised concerns about their ability to access the daycares at their new sites, F.W. Howay Elementary School in Massey-Victory Heights and Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in the West End.

"We are doing everything we can to think creatively about how we're using our spaces, and we're continuing discussions with the City of New Westminster about possible new solutions," the district's statement said. 

But the good news comes with a warning: This is more a temporary reprieve than a permanent win.

The district says space "continues to be tight," and it can't guarantee that any families who register between now and September will be accommodated at their neighbouhood school.

"We are continuing to work with our partners at all levels to create and build the new spaces we need to alleviate this pressure, as we're committed to supporting students and families in the local communities they call home," the statement said.

In the long term, the district is working towards a new elementary school in the core of the city.

But there's still a long road ahead for that project. A proposed 600-student elementary school on the Fraser River Middle School site has been delayed out of the gate; SD40 had hoped to receive concept plan approval by March but has learned it will now be at least June. 

That plan still needs funding approval from the B.C. Ministry of Education, and the new school won't open before 2027 — leaving the school district continuing to scramble for space in the immediate future.

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