British Columbia

Mom angry daughter wait-listed for only high school in Nelson, B.C.

Camara Cassin has been waiting since April to find out if her daughter can start Grade 9 at the school six blocks from her house, when the school is taking 50 international students.

Ministry of Education says international students are not displacing locals at Nelson's only high school

Camara Cassin is upset that her 14-year-old daughter is on a wait-list at the local school, which has already accepted 50 international students. (Bob Keating/CBC)

A Nelson, B.C., mother is livid her 14-year-old daughter is on a wait-list for the only high school in the city, while about 50 international students are attending L.V. Rogers Secondary this year.

Today, on the second day of school, Camara Cassin said she still hasn't received an official answer about whether her daughter Solara can start Grade 9, though the school district has told CBC News all catchment-area students will be accommodated.

Cassin voiced her outrage yesterday in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 2,500 times in 24 hours, detailing what happened when she tried to register her daughter.

She missed the March 31 deadline by "about a week," she said, not realizing early April was too late to apply for a transfer from homeschooling.

Cassin was told Solara would be on a wait-list.

"I said OK, when am I going to have an answer whether she's in or not?" she recalled. They didn't know, and she was told to call back.

Several months and phone calls later, still no answer.

"I said well that's not OK. Like, I need an answer. Am I going to have to move to a different town? Do I need to enroll her in a different school? Do I need to homeschool her again next year?"

Some students and parents at L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson aren't happy with class scheduling this year. (Google Maps)

'This is crazy'

Yesterday, Cassin didn't want her daughter to miss out on the first day of school, so they went anyway despite being told wait-listed students should stay home.

"It's the start of a new part of her life," said Cassin. "I think it's an important psychological moment to start school."

They found their way into a school-wide assembly, where Cassin learned from the principal that 50 international students were enrolled at L.V. Rogers that year.

"This is crazy," Cassin remembered thinking, when students in the catchment area are still on a wait-list. "I was angry."

When she got home, she learned the school district gets $12,000 in tuition from each international student, compared to about $7,000 from the ministry for each local student.

"It's just not right the local kids can't go to school, because the school district has to meet their funding deficit by having international students cover the bills." said Cassin.

A promotional image from the Kootenay Lake School District's International Program, which advertises academic programs at 10 elementary and seven secondary schools, as well as a world-class ski hill and 'large, clean lake.' (School District #8 International Program)

International students not displacing locals

The Kootenay Lake School District and the B.C. Ministry of Education both say international students have nothing to do with the wait-list at L.V. Rogers or other schools.

"It is entirely wrong to suggest any international students are displacing local students," said the ministry in a statement.

The school district does actively market internationally, including to China, Germany, Japan, South Korea and Brazil.

But those students were registered before the March 31, deadline, said superintendent Jeff Jones.

"The international students are not the issue," said Jones in an interview with Daybreak South host Chris Walker. Each school receives money from the international students' tuition to support them and other students in the school, he said.

The problem in Cassin's case was registering late, he said.

Across the district, 163 people applied to transfer on time, and 142 applied late, Jones said.

'We will accommodate them'

There are five students who, like Solara, live in the catchment for L.V. Rogers but are currently wait-listed, said Jones.

The school will find room for all of them before the end of the week, he said.

"We will accommodate them," said Jones. "We are required ... to accommodate students who live in a catchment area."

The school district has difficulty finding classes for wait-listed students by the first day, he said, because they have to juggle them —the kids who are registered but don't show up, and the kids who show up but weren't registered.

When asked why Cassin wasn't given a clear answer over a summer of worry, Jones admits there could have been better communication.

'We can certainly improve our messaging to the parents so they understand the process that's in front of them."

With files from Bob Keating and CBC Radio's Daybreak South