Private schools in Maple Ridge are fielding more calls from parents as a labour dispute between public school teachers and the province drags on.
The Federation of Independent Schools reports a marked increase in inquiries, a trend the organization has seen during previous job action.
“I know that the applications to some of the religious schools have gone up substantially,” said Hugh Burke, the headmaster of Meadowridge School in Maple Ridge.
The university preparatory school on 240th Street has seen an increase in calls, as well, but no spike in enrolment.
Burke said that’s because Meadowridge tends to attract people looking for a specific kind of education, not those running away from another school system.
“If people wanted to come to an independent school like ours, they should be coming because they want to attend our school,” he added.
“We still think that the public schools are very good schools. The current relationship between the teachers and the bargaining unit will pass. The fact is, B.C. schools are consistently among the best in the world. We want to make sure people understand that when they apply here.”
There are 367 independent schools in B.C.. The Federation of Independent Schools represents 292 of them. Students in religious schools make up the largest portion of independent school enrolment.
St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Maple Ridge has seen an increase in interest since public school teachers began their strike.
“I don’t want to say it’s directly related to the strike, but when the public system goes on job action, we often have an increased enrolment,” said principal Clive Heah.
He estimates St. Pat’s, which can accommodate a maximum of 230 students, fielded between six or seven inquiries over summer from parents with children in public schools.
Staff at both Meadowridge and St. Pat’s are busy preparing for the new school year this week.
Meadowridge graduated its first class of International Baccalaureate students this year and reports the class of 2014 achieved a 100 per cent pass rate, compared to the world average of 80 per cent.
Of the 42 graduates in 2014, 32 wrote the IB exam.
“We are pretty happy with how the kids did. It means a lot of the students completed the first year of university while at Meadowridge,” said Burke.