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The ABCs of Kindergarten Registration in Vancouver

The ABCs of Kindergarten Registration in Vancouver

It all goes so fast! It’s never too early to start understanding the logistics of kindergarten registration. Whether you are planning ahead or just moved resulting in the need to re-apply for schools, we’ve got the details you need for Vancouver kindergarten registration.

Kindergarten Registration Already?

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. 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. 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.

Backpack for Kindergarten.
Photo Credit: Connie Hobbis

The Basics of Kindergarten Registration

Kindergarten Choice Programs

Apply to one of the following specialized Kindergarten Choice Programs:

Fine Arts—Instruction in visual arts, music, dance and drama for students K-Grade 7.

Montessori—Teaching with the emphasis on independence and learning at their own physiological, physical and social development.

French Immersion— French language program for students K-Grade 7.

Mandarin Bilingual– Mandarin language program for students K-Grade 7.

Indigenous Focus—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? 

This year, children born in 2017 are eligible for Kindergarten registration in their own catchment.

Priority registrations in Vancouver begin November 1 and end January 3.

For Burnaby, registration begins in February of the same year they turn 5.

Find out about registration dates:

>> Vancouver School Board
>> Burnaby School Board

Sand Play Kindergarten
Photo Credit: Connie Hobbis

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 wants?

Students who wish to apply at a specialized 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. Applications run from January 10 to February 3 in Vancouver.

All parents will be contacted before the end of April to be notified of which cross-boundary program their child has been accepted in. 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.

See Also

Each school will analyze 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 licensed 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.

The offer of acceptance is then 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.

Kindergarten student and teacher
Photo Credit: Connie Hobbis

Late Catchment

What happens if your child has been waitlisted for the school of choice?

Each school will reassess its attendance for each program after the Summer to account for families who have moved to the area or other 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 maximize each classroom’s capacity 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 within the catchment and do their best to accommodate. 

If you’re applying late, my best advice would be to connect directly with the school secretary 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.

View Comment (1)
  • Thank you so much for the detailed information! My family are moving to Vancouver from Japan, and I am desperately looking for a kindergarten for my 5-year-old son. What are the alternatives to a public school kindergarten? I read it in another blog that most schools have a waitlist. I am a full-time working single mom, and would really appreciate some suggestions.

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