VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As she works on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing Dr. Roberta Dionello wants to be worrying about is where her daughter will go to kindergarten this fall.
“As you can imagine, I’m under quite a lot of pressure,” the radiologist who works at Mount Saint Joseph and Saint Paul’s hospitals told NEWS 1130.
“To have this hanging over my head and having to waste time banding together with other parents, thinking of how we’re going to try and effect change for the future is just the absolute last thing that needs to be on my mind right now.”
Kindergarten rejections leave parents scrambling
Dionello lives two blocks from Lord Nelson Elementary in East Vancouver, but her daughter, Poppy, didn’t get one of its coveted kindergarten spots for the 2020/21 school year.
She then applied for spots in three “choice” programs and got three rejections. Applications to five other Vancouver schools have also been rejected.
“I’ve done everything perfectly … and have been completely unsuccessful in getting her a spot,” Dionello said, adding the experience has been “super annoying.”
And the Dionello family is not alone. The radiologist said she knows of at least six other families who couldn’t get into Lord Nelson and were also subsequently rejected from five out-of-catchment schools.
Francesca, who also has a daughter starting school in September, said it’s “super ridiculous” that Lord Nelson was rebuilt in 2019 for $17.9 million but isn’t large enough to serve the rapidly densifying neighbourhood.
‘Crazy’ catchment system should be reformed, mom says
Dionello wants to see the Vancouver School Board (VSB) reopen Garibaldi Annex, a kindergarten to Grade 4 feeder to Lord Nelson that was shuttered last year, and reform its catchment system.
“Instead of having these catchment areas arbitrarily drawn on a map, in order to make Vancouver a green city, in order to allow children to walk to school, in order to make parents’ lives easier, it should based on how close to the school each child lives and that’s where they should be offered a place,” she said.
“The system they have at the moment is, quite frankly, crazy.”
Both moms are now left waiting, unsure of where their daughters will be going to school in the fall (if schools closed during the pandemic have re-opened by then).
“We’re left in limbo,” Dionello said.
A VSB spokesperson said district staff were busy working on “immediate needs” during the pandemic and unavailable to speak to NEWS 1130. Board chair Janet Fraser did not respond to an interview request.
In February, Fraser said: “The VSB would love to have every kindergartner applicant be accommodated in their catchment school, but unfortunately we don’t have the physical space in our schools to do that.”
In a statement provided to NEWS 1130 shortly after this article was first published, a VSB spokesperson said “all students registered for kindergarten will be offered placement at a Vancouver school.”
Families who have made cross-boundary applications may still be accepted to one of the schools for which they’ve been waitlisted, the spokesperson said.
“We understand parents’ concerns and work hard to maximize the number of students that can be accommodated at catchment schools.”