Albion elementary vice principal Nicole Neggers says she wasn’t surprised to see 60 parents lined up to register their children at Albion elementary when she showed up for work 5:30 a.m. Monday morning.
The school had been fielding calls for days from parents in the neighbourhood concerned there wouldn’t be room for their children to enroll in kindergarten.
What was surprising, was that many of the parents opted to camp out over night to guarantee their child a spot in the school’s all-day kindergarten program.
“It happened last year as well, just not to the same extent,” said Neggers.
Although the school was built for 450 students, Neggers expects 575 children to attend this year. While that’s down from more than 590 this school year, as of the 2011/12 school year the school’s kindergarten classes will switch to an all-day program, instead of the half-day program currently in place.
The all-day kindergarten program was implemented in half the elementary schools in the district this year, and will be in every school province wide in September.
The school has capped kindergarten registration at 66 students for the 2011/12 school year. However, more than 85 were expected to register. That would mean some children would likely have to find a different school to attend in September.
“It’s first come, first serve, basically,” said Neggers.
At this point, more than 80 kindergarten students from within the school’s catchment area have registered for kindergarten at the school. About 15 of those have picked Albion as a second or third choice.
Neggers said the school might be able play with the school’s class configuration to accommodate more students by adding a split kindergarten/Grade 1 class.
The overcrowding at the school is a result of the development of nearby subdivisions, which has led to an influx of young families in the area.
School district spokesperson Seamus Nesling said the overcrowding situation at Albion demonstrates the need for a new school in Albion.
The district owns a property on 104th Avenue, east of 240th Street, on which it hopes to build a new elementary school to serve the area.
However, there is still no sign of capital funding from the provincial government.
“We need school space at one end of town, and at the other, we have an excess,” he said. “So that runs up against the Ministry’s formula for funding new schools.”
In order to deal the growing number of children in the area, the school district has continually shaved down Albion’s catchment area.
Recent changes to the school’s catchment boundaries mean that children living in the Thornhill subdivision at the corner of 248th Street and 102nd Avenue, located just 2.5 km away from Albion elementary, now belong to the catchment for Whonnock elementary, more than eight kilometres and 15 minutes away by car.
Albion is already planning to add a fourth portable for 2011/12, in addition the to the three existing ones, but Neggers doesn’t know many more the school can handle.
The district saved the provincial Ministry of Education close to $3 million last May when it opted to use its existing portables to house kindergarten students at six schools as part of the transition to all-day classes, instead of using expensive modular classrooms.
Secretary Treasurer Wayne Jefferson said he hopes the move will encourage the province to provide funding for a new school in Albion, which would likely cost upwards of $12 million.
“I believe we can make a case,” he said, last year. “We need to look at creative ways to secure new funding.”