The ABCs of Kindergarten Registration in Vancouver
When my little guy began his elementary learning career last year, I was beside myself. If you thought the birth of a first child is big, let me assure you that the first day of Kindergarten is right up there in the long list of emotional mama milestones.
I began researching elementary enrollment in BC to fill my hours and I was pleasantly shocked to learn a wide selection of educational options for different types of learners.At the centre of it all, BC’s school curriculum is based on literacy and numeracy foundations, essential learning skills and the core competencies: (a) creative & critical thinking, (b) communication and (c) personal awareness & responsibility.
There are 12 public school districts alone in the Metro Vancouver region. Each school district offers free education for students and also each offers a similar selection of elementary programs for consideration. We’ve curated a quick and simple guide to help you know what to expect when registering your child for kindergarten in Vancouver or Burnaby districts.
The Basics of Kindergarten Registration
Kindergarten Choice Programs
Along with BC’s curriculum, parents can help adapt to their children’s learning needs and apply to one of the following Kindergarten Choice Programs:
Fine Arts—specialised instructions in visual arts, music, dance and drama for student K-Grade 7
Montessori—specialised teaching with the emphasis on independence, learning at their own physiological, physical and social development.
French Immersion—specialised French language program for student K-Grade 7
Mandarin Bilingual—specialised Mandarin language program for K-Grade 7
Indigenous Focus—specialised in teaching about local First Nations, the values, experiences and histories of all Indigenous peoples. (available only in Vancouver)
Multi-Age Cluster Class—an inquiry-based program for high level learners who are seeking a cognitive and creative challenge in a supportive community with similar intellectual needs. (available only in Burnaby)
When to Apply for Kindergarten in Vancouver or Burnaby?
Each year, children who turn 5 years of age will attend Kindergarten in September of that very same year. In 2022, children born in 2017 are eligible for Kindergarten registration in their own catchment.
In Vancouver, priority registrations begin November 1 and ends January 3.
In Burnaby, registration begins in February of the same year they turn 5.
Find out About Registration Dates:
Cross Boundary Applications (Applying for a Kindergarten Choice Program)
Now that you are aware of these different programs, what if the catchment school of your address is not the one offering the program your family is interested in?
Students who wish to apply at a specialised program that is OUTSIDE of their catchment school area must apply for a Cross Boundary Registration. Applying for a district choice program is a separate process and runs from January 10 to February 3 in Vancouver.
All parents will be contacted before the end of April to be notified which cross boundary program their child has been accepted for. For French Immersion in Vancouver, a family can apply to up to 3 schools of their choice.
Breaking it Down – Step-by-Step of Kindergarten Registration
Step 1: You MUST register at your English Catchment School PRIOR to submitting a Cross Boundary Application.
Step 2: Complete the online Cross Boundary Application form and confirm with the receiving school that they have the request. In Burnaby, you must email the form directly to the desired school.
Step 3: The school will inform you of the status of your application by the end of April.
Each school will analyse their attendance numbers with priority given in the following order: (a) non-catchment students with a sibling concurrently attending the same program, (b) non-catchment student who is attending a licenced child care program within the district, (c) a student who lives within the district, and then finally (d) a student who resides outside of the district.
After the above priority circumstances, the offer of acceptance is based on a lottery system. Chances of attending will vary from year to year. For example, some years you may find more children attending a particular licensed child care program in the area, etc.
What happens if your child has been waitlisted for the school of choice?
Each school will reassess their attendance for each program after the Summer to account for families who have moved to the area or other general fluctuations.
This means that there is a possibility that you will not know where your child attends Kindergarten until the end of September, as schools will maximise each classroom’s capacity in order to operate at the ideal level.
Late catchment offerings may occur in the Fall.
Applying Late in Catchment
What happens if you need to apply late for your catchment school?
Applying late to your catchment school does not always guarantee a spot, however the schools will favour those who are located within catchment and do their best to accommodate.
If you’re applying late with your catchment school, my best advice would be to connect directly with the Secretary of the school to find out more about their current situation.
Hope these findings help paint a picture of what the kindergarten registration process might look like for your family. Although the process can be overwhelming or discouraging at times, your child will get placed at a school. Lastly, please be aware that you can always apply for Grade 1 Cross Boundary entrance come the following year.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.