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Qayqayt Elementary will have to turn away students next fall

A reigstration lottery system means even siblings of current students could find themselves out in the cold.
École Qayqayt Elementary
École Qayqayt Elementary School, which is operating well past capacity, will almost certainly be turning some kindergarten students away come fall 2023. A lottery system will be used for placement if registrations exceed available space, as is currently projected.

New kindergarten students at École Qayqayt Elementary School could find themselves directed to another school in September 2023 — even if they have siblings at Qayqayt.

The New Westminster school district opened registration Nov. 7 for the 2023/24 school year. Families with children starting kindergarten next fall (those who turn five in the calendar year 2023) can make an appointment to register their child anytime between now and Jan. 27, 2023.

But registering your child doesn’t guarantee their spot in their catchment school if that school happens to be full.

As it stands, three School District 40 schools are at their physical capacity limits: Qayqayt, Lord Kelvin and Queen Elizabeth elementary schools. With no space for more portables at any of those schools, the only way new space is created is by students moving on to middle school.

But what if the number of new kindergarten registrants exceeds the number of students leaving? Then the district turns to a lottery system — a randomized draw including all the students who registered by the Jan. 27 deadline — to fill however many spaces are available.

“With limited space in the district, and growth anticipated, the reality of being redirected to another school is high, especially at Qayqayt Elementary,” says a report from SD40 secretary-treasurer Bettina Ketcham.

Qayqayt has an operating capacity of 501 students; its enrolment, as of 2022, stands at 615. The district is anticipating 638 students by 2023, 682 by 2024 and 711 by 2025. By the time the district opens a planned new elementary school at Simcoe Park — which is anticipated to be 2027, given the timelines for funding and construction — Qayqayt will be at an estimated 719 students.

That rapid growth leaves the district scrambling for ways to house those extra students until the new school opens — thus the school board’s decision this past June to adopt the lottery system.

Qayqayt families could find siblings left out in the cold

Compounding the problem for Qayqayt families is the reality that, if numbers are high enough, siblings of existing students may not make it in to the school.

That’s because the district follows a priority order laid out in its student admissions policies:

  1. continuing in-catchment students;
  2. continuing students living out-of-catchment or out-of-district when they’re remaining in the same school and program;
  3. transfer requests from in-catchment students who’ve been placed by the district in another school because of space limitations in a previous year;
  4. students living in the catchment who have siblings attending the same school;
  5. new students living in the catchment area.

(Lower on the priority list are transfer requests from out-of-catchment students, siblings of continuing out-of-district students and new out-of-district students.)

If enough displaced students from previous years want to come back to their catchment school, then even siblings of current students could end up out of luck.

“For families with multiple children, this is significantly disruptive,” Ketcham said. “For students who have to be placed out of catchment and then move back to their in-catchment school after one or more years, transitions can be challenging.”

As of Nov. 8, 33 students had been displaced from the Qayqayt catchment and are now attending other district schools. Those students are spread among Lord Tweedsmuir, Lord Kelvin, Connaught Heights and Skwo:wech.

Lord Kelvin Elementary School has two displaced students, currently attending Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary instead. Herbert Spencer Elementary School has six displaced students, with five of those redirected to F.W. Howay and one to Skwo:wech.

When a student is displaced from their catchment school, they’ll be moved into the next-closest school with available space or an alternative school of their preference, if space allows.

Community programs, daycare spaces displaced to make way for classrooms

The registration lottery is just one part of a multi-pronged strategy by the district to cope with its short-term capacity needs. Also on the table are plans to convert non-classroom spaces at two centrally located schools — Qayqayt and Fraser River Middle School — into classrooms.

Those changes will ultimately create four classrooms apiece at Qayqayt and FRMS, but at the cost of displacing community programs.

New Westminster Family Place will be forced to vacate the space it currently uses at Qayqayt by the fall of 2023.  The move also affects the Purpose Society, which runs child-care centres at both schools. A total of 72 infant-toddler child-care spaces (36 at each school) are being displaced; they need to be out in time for the classrooms to be used for the 2024/25 school year.

How to register your child for kindergarten in New Westminster schools in 2023/24

Want to know more about kindergarten registration New West schools? You can find all the details at the SD40 registration page.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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