Calgary public school trustees have voted against giving siblings top priority for spots in crowded schools.

The Calgary Board of Education trustees weighed in on the issue Tuesday night during a board meeting, striking down a proposal to give siblings priority with a 4-3 vote.

Trustees said the two-hour debate about lotteries shows the stress the system is under with a shortage of schools creating the problem.

Calgary's population is booming and as many as 16 public schools will have to choose students, but up to 20 more schools may need a lottery next year.

Registration for the fall has already started.

"I can't believe we live in a city where a lottery decides what school children go to," said board chair Sheila Taylor.

Trustee Trina Hurdman, who wanted to give first priority to siblings, said it would have kept families together. 

"It just shows that we're in dire straits right now in terms of lack of spaces and we really need the province to step up to the plate and fund new schools," she said.

Walk zone gets priority

Under the existing system, new students in the walk zone with siblings in the school are looked at first. The second priority is remaining new students in the walk zone and siblings of existing students.

After that, all other new students within the designated district wanting to attend the school are entered into a lottery. 

Alternative schools have a slightly different process, also taking students on the waiting list who have reapplied and qualify before the lottery begins.

But for families with more than one child, the advantages of giving siblings first priority include keeping children together and making transportation easier.

Parent Andrea Currie, who has two pre-schoolers, is relieved the lottery process remains the same.

She was worried that if siblings were given top priority, her oldest son would have to ride the bus to kindergarten at an over-flow school, despite living within walking distance of their neighbourhood school.