International students given priority while daughter wait-listed, claims Vancouver mom

A Vancouver mother claims her daughter is being wait-listed at two local high schools while international students are given priority placements.

'I'm a kid who loves school; this waiting and not being in school is driving me nuts'

Maya Walker (right) has been on two Vancouver high school wait-lists since February and still hasn't started Grade 12. She and her mother, Valérie Walker, (left) moved to Vancouver from Montreal earlier this year. (submitted by V. Walker)

A Vancouver teen is in educational limbo — wait-listed at two city high schools while international students are being given priority placement, according to her mother.

"I'm a kid who loves school. This waiting and not being in school is driving me nuts," said 17-year-old Maya Walker, who is supposed to be starting Grade 12. 

Valérie Walker says her daughter was placed on the wait-list at both Eric Hamber Secondary and Vancouver Technical Secondary in February but has only recently been told by both schools there's no room. 

Walker says officials from both Hamber and Van Tech told her directly the schools were accepting international students as a priority because they needed the money.

"In August I was told they couldn't take her at Hamber because they had already decided to open up their roster to international students," Walker said. 

"They basically said they get three times the amount [of money] per student for international students. So they then suggested we go to her catchment school ... which is Vancouver Tech Secondary School.

"We're still waiting to hear from them. They admitted that they are her catchment school, and that they should accept her, but they are also accepting international student to try and make their budget, because the school board, the educational system, is short of funds and they need the money."

'Some kind of misunderstanding'

Vancouver School Board associate superintendent Julie Pearce said in an emailed statement there appears to be "some kind of misunderstanding." 

"Vancouver School Board does not recognize the situation described because VSB only places international students in schools where there are spaces," read the statement.

"No international student would take a place ahead of a student living in B.C. who is qualified for that school or program."

The statement goes on to read, "...the district understands the student in this case has already been offered a place at a neighbouring school," which Walkers says isn't true.

"We haven't heard anything," she said when contacted a second time.

Sent home, watching Netflix

Walker and her daughter moved to Vancouver from Montreal earlier this year. Last week, the first week of the new school year, Maya attended Van Tech in person but was sent home. 

"When we were there in person, they said they were still waiting to find out what their roster list is," said Walker. "They said they had international students they're considering and students from last year who haven't contacted them."

Walker says her daughter has spent the first two weeks of the school year "watching documentaries on Netflix."

"She's just moved here, and she really wants to get to know kids her own age in Vancouver. There really isn't any other way to develop a community when you first move move as a kid, except to join into a school and get to know people." 

"I moved here from Quebec where the school system is simple and it's underfunded, but it's very local student driven," said Walker.

"To be told, as a local student, that we have to wait for international students who pay more, shows me how underfunded the systems is here. I'm shocked."