Kindergarten enrolment moves online

Parents in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows won't have to line up outside their preferred schools

Jay Monagh was one of students in all-boys kindergarten at Davie Jones elementary in 2012. This year

Some local parents have been so committed to making sure their child gets enrolled in French Immersion, or some other choice school, they have stayed overnight at the school – in early January – to be first in line for kindergarten enrolment.

Those desperate days, hopefully, are gone.

Next month, for the first time, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district is going to a new online kindergarten registration system, one that is locally developed and may be unique in the province.

“As a parent who stood outside three times in the rain, I am happy to see this happening,” trustee Sarah Nelson said at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Deputy superintendent Laurie Meston said she had fairness and convenience foremost in mind when planning the system. Programs will still be done on a first-come, first-served basis, but using a system where nobody will benefit by sleeping outside a school.

“This is expected to be streamlined, efficient and effective,” said superintendent Jan Unwin.

No other school districts in B.C. have such a system yet, to the board’s knowledge. Some call their processes online registration, but they amount to emailing the district information, with the paperwork to follow.

Unwin said there may be an opportunity for the district to market the software and system, once it is developed and tested.

“The hope is this will be a sale-able item,” she said.

Meston has been asked why the district doesn’t allow in-person registration at the same time as online sign-ups are being taken.

The answer is that the online registration can be “determined down to the millisecond.”

For parents trying to get their child into year-round school, the environmental school, French Immersion or other choice programs, it is important to know that the first-come, first-served system is working.

“We’re really trying to make it as fair a process as possible.”

Parents will be able to register to be part of a portal in advance, look at the registration form and print it out, so they will be ready with their information.

The district will also provide help lines via phone and email.

Elementary school libraries will have designated computers, and there will be computer sites at the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows public libraries set aside for kindergarten registration, in order to ensure all parents have access to a computer. The registration can be done from any online computer.

Kindergarten registration priority will still be given to children to have a sibling at the school, then to students who live in the catchment area for a the desired school, and next to students who attend daycare in the catchment area for the school.

Registration will be open to children who are five years old by Dec. 31. It will open for siblings on at noon of Jan. 15, for choice programs on Jan. 22 and for regular kindergarten on Feb. 4.  Registrations will begin at noon, unlike 7:30 a.m. in the past, and close at midnight.

Pamphlets about the new process have been printed, and have been distributed to parents.

The link to the kindergarten registration process is located at www.sd42.ca/kindergarten-registration.

Parents will be able to “test drive” the online registration form beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

“This will hopefully be more user friendly,” said Meston

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