On February 2nd CBC published a news story about parents waiting in line overnight in Montreal to try to secure a Kindergarten spot at Royal Vale School. The article states “Some parents have been lined up in the frigid cold since noon Sunday, hoping to secure a coveted kindergarten spot for their children. At Royal Vale School, about 30 people were outside shortly after 6 a.m. They lit a small fire in a garbage can in front of the school to warm up. Temperatures dipped to – 22 C, or – 36 with the wind chill.” The school which runs admissions on a first come, first served basis is known for its enriched extracurricular program, its high academics, and its focus on Math and the Sciences.
While this all seems quite ridiculous, there are no schools in New Brunswick that run admissions this way. Some of us wish we could line up overnight and in the cold to be able to sign our kids up for a good Kindergarten spot. Instead the wealthier classes move into the nicer neighbourhoods that have better schools while the poor are left without options. The neighbourhoods with affordable rents have schools with wonderful staff, but they also have many high needs children, older buildings, and despite many community efforts are still under-resourced. If you wish your child to attend a different school, you have to apply for an inner-district transfer, hope that there is room in the alternate school, and if accepted, provide your own transportation.
We really struggled with this whole school thing. And from my book club meeting last night, I learned that we are not the only ones. Stay at home moms, working professionals, and educators, we have all struggled with our options and considered where to live based on where our kids would go to school.
Our son will start Kindergarten in September. We had to register him in October and it took until that week to decide what to do. As community priests, we wanted to send him to the school in our neighbourhood. The school that is in an old building, that has amazing staff, that has lots of support from the community, but that also has a lot to deal with. And while we feel that for diversity and equality’s sake, those with middle class incomes should send their children to this school, we just weren’t comfortable with this option.
Fortunately since I have a French background, we were able to opt for the French school. This school is not in our neighbourhood, but still buses the kids in from the Inner city. It has great staff, is well funded, and has a growing and expanding building and community centre.
This decision to send my son to the French school makes me feel like a conscientious and attentive parent. At times in also makes me feel like a community wimp. But most of all I am aware of all the parents who do not have these options, and of the kids who struggle in their school environments and have no other alternatives. I cannot help coming to the conclusion that our education system is creating class distinctions beginning at age 5 (unless you are French). It isn’t surprising then, that we are struggling with low literacy rates and lower numbers of graduates in the priority neighbourhoods. While the city and the government continue to stress the need to increase literacy and focus on education, the reality is that playground is uneven.
By Jasmine Chandra