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Vernon School District adopts lottery for French immersion registration

In 2018, two hours before the school opened, Quinn Vienneau counted around 75 people already in line outside the school in the -6 C conditions, all hoping to register their children for French immersion. Quinn Vienneau

This year Vernon parents won’t be camping out overnight to ensure their children a spot in French immersion.

The Vernon School District announced Wednesday that it is ending the first come, first served registration system for its French immersion programs and opting for a lottery system instead.

Last January, dozens of Vernon parents spent all or part of a chilly night outside to ensure their child got a spot in the program.

In 2019 those at the front of the line said they arrived as early as 4:30 p.m. the day before — 14.5 hours before numbers for registration priority were set to be handed out at around 7:00 a.m.

Click to play video: 'Vernon parents line-up overnight in January for French immersion registration' Vernon parents line-up overnight in January for French immersion registration
Vernon parents line-up overnight in January for French immersion registration – Jan 15, 2019

By that time the temperature had dipped to a low of -6 C.

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Along with being uncomfortable and time consuming for parents, the line-up system has been criticized for disadvantaging single-parent families who may not have the resources to find other care for their children while they wait in line for hours.

READ MORE: Vernon parents line up for hours in sub-zero temperatures for French immersion registration

However, in the past the school district has defended the first come, first served French immersion registration as a fairer than doing sign-up by lottery.

In 2019, a district spokesperson said drawing names would leave parents with “no control” over the outcome.

Now the new school board has reversed course on that policy after receiving feedback from parents on both sides if the issue.

READ MORE: Demand for French immersion grows as spots shrink. Here’s what’s happening

Spokesperson Maritza Reilly acknowledged that there are families who want the control of the first come, first served to ensure their children get into French immersion.

However, she said the new school board made the decision to move to a lottery to support families who were finding it a hardship to lineup.

Reilly said students with siblings already in French immersion will be able to register first and the remaining program placements will be determined by lottery.

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READ MORE: Nearly 40 parents camp in the cold outside Royal Vale school for a kindergarten spot

All families interested in enrolling a child in French immersion, whether they already have a student in the program or not, should register their children by visiting Beairsto Elementary for early French immersion or Harwood Elementary for late French immersion during the registration period.

That registration period runs from January 15 to Ferbuary 14, 2020.

“The district will then take all the applications and admit siblings first. The remaining children will be selected by lottery,” Reilly said in an email to Global News.

More information about registration process and information nights on Montessori and French immersion can be found the the school district’s website.

Reilly said during last year’s registration a “handful” of students weren’t able to get into French immersion kindergarten.

However, more spaces open up for Grade 1 French immersion and students can apply for the lottery to enter into that program next year.

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