Dozens of Vernon parents spent all or part of a chilly January night outside to ensure their child got a spot in early French immersion.
Parents have mixed feelings about the registration procedure but the school district defends the lineup method, arguing it is the fairest way to determine which families are guaranteed a spot.
Parents came prepared with camping chairs, sleeping bags, tents and portable campfires, forming a line that stretched from the doors of Beairsto Elementary around the building.
Those at the front of the line said they arrived as early as 4:30 p.m. on Monday — 14.5 hours before numbers for registration priority were set to be handed out at around 7:00 a.m.
By that time the temperature had dipped to a low of -6.
“I’m in this lineup because my four-year-old son Rohan really wants to go to a school where he can learn to speak French and I love him more than anything on the planet,” said parent Aaron De Heus.
“It was a great experience. Nice to meet people that are as committed to their children as I think myself and my wife are.”
There are 88 spots for new entries into early French immersion in Vernon (80 kindergarten spots and eight in Grade 1).
The school district said 91 families registered for those 88 spots on Tuesday morning.
Parents who have already have older children in French immersion and are now lining up again to register their younger siblings said the lineup is getting more intense with more parents showing up earlier.
This was Anetha Kashuba’s fifth time waiting in the French immersion registration lineup.
She said last year she arrived at 4:30 a.m. and was number 48. This year she came an hour and a half earlier at 2:00 a.m. and believes there were around 50 to 55 parents already ahead of her.
Kashuba said it was a cold night and standing in the line overnight also meant parents had to leave their kids at home.
“They are trying to make it so it is fair to everybody but it is not fair to people who are single parents or they have no supports so they can’t leave their kids at home,” Kashuba said.
“I think it is better than the method of just pulling names out of thin air because at least I can make sure my kids are going to go to this school, but it is ridiculous that it has to take up a whole day of my life.”
The school district said the Vernon School Board has looked at other options but believes this is the fairest way to do registration.
School district spokesperson Maritza Reilly said if registration was done online those with better access to computers and faster internet speeds would have a better chance at guaranteeing their child a spot.
“There is also a lottery system, which a lot of schools in the Lower Mainland do, which leaves parents with absolutely no control. There has been a lot of discussion about this and we feel this is the most fair,” said Reilly.
She adds that single-parent families or families that are out of town during registration can get a friend or another family member to wait in line to register their child.
A new school board was elected in the fall. Reilly said it will ultimately be up to the new board to decide if the line-up registration system continues.
Reilly said in previous years the school district has had similar numbers of families register on the first day.
She said last year by the time the new school year started some registered families had moved or changed their minds about French immersion and in the end, the district was able to accommodate everyone.
The district also has a late French immersion program beginning in Grade 6. On Tuesday, 24 families registered for 30 spots.