Kindergarten registration is fast-approaching for the Sooke School District and those interested in French immersion and nature kindergarten programs may find things are a little different this year.
The Sooke School District has implemented a new lottery system to help combat the high demand for the programs.
“We want to make sure there’s an equitable way for families to be able to access those programs,” said District Superintendent Scott Stinson, who noted the system was implemented after extensive study.
In the past, the two kindergarten programs have seen more registration than District schools can accommodate.
Lindsay Vogan, spokesperson for SD62 said that registration for both programs filled up very quickly in the past.
“If you were online and you hadn’t registered by 8:15 (a.m.), you probably weren’t getting in especially for nature (kindergarten),” Vogan said. “Nature (kindergarten) started as a physical lineup when we had people camping in January.”
Stinson said the District is trying to avoid people having to line up to register their children in programs.
“If a program is oversubscribed, this gives equal access to anyone that registers at any point during our registration time,” Stinson said.
Both programs are very popular for different reasons, according to Stinson.
Parents have gravitated towards nature kindergarten because it reconnects their children to nature and moves away from traditional, classroom-oriented programs, Stinson said. Currently, the program runs at two elementary schools in the District — Sangster Elementary School and Saseenos Elementary School.
French immersion is an appealing option because the bilingual nature of Canada, Stinson said. Those that aren’t enrolled in French immersion kindergarten can enrol in the late entry program later on, however.
The lottery system will follow student enrolment priorities set out by SD62. Students that are being re-enrolled or that have a catchment area sibling already at the school are given the highest priority. Non-catchment and non-school district children are at the bottom of the list.
Each priority level is given a certain number of seats in the program. If there are too many registrants in one priority level, a lottery will be held to decide who gets to register.
This year, the District will monitor how the new system goes over and make changes if necessary, Stinson said.
“Many out of district families want to register in our School District,” Stinson said. “That becomes problematic for us because we obviously want to have space for the family that moves in across the street…our hope is that (the lottery system) gives everyone equal footing.”
Stinson said the District is continuing to work with the Ministry of Education to address the issue of over-capacity in schools and programs. He said right now, the District is limited by the space and by the number of people that can teach in programs like French immersion.
“As we add more schools in the District, the potential of another immersion school opening up is certainly there,” Stinson said. “Right now, we don’t have the physical capacity to be able to do that.”