Edmonton

Edmonton public school lottery system expanded as student population grows

A lottery system for students trying to get into their local city public schools has been expanded to deal with high demand, which is frustrating for one parent whose teen may now face a long commute.

Five schools admitting new students by lottery

New students in the Lillian Osborne High School attendance area will have to enter a lottery to get into the school due to high demand. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

A lottery system for students trying to get into their local city public schools has been expanded to deal with high demand, which is frustrating for one parent whose teen may now face a long commute. 

Lillian Osborne High School in southwest Edmonton, and David Thomas King School — a kindergarten to Grade 9 school in the west end — will both run lotteries for new students who live within the attendance areas.

Existing students don't have to participate in the lottery.

Mable Chan-Simons's 14-year-old daughter is hoping to attend Lillian Osborne when she starts Grade 10 next fall.

Chan-Simons said she was frustrated to learn that if her daughter doesn't get a lottery spot, she'll have to travel north from their home in Terwillegar to attend classes at Strathcona High School.

It would take nearly an hour each way on transit, so she would likely be driven instead.

Mable Chan-Simons's daughter hopes to attend nearby Lillian Osborne High School when she starts Grade 10 in the fall. (Mable Chan-Simons)

"It's just another stressor for a Grade 10 that's unnecessary," Chan-Simons said. 

She said she'd like the division to consult with parents, and to consider changing attendance boundaries so that students closer to Strathcona go there rather than having residents living in the deep south make the drive north.

The lottery system, already in place for Dr. Lila Fahlman School, Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour School and Svend Hansen School, is part of the Edmonton Public School Board's growth management strategy.

Ward F trustee Julie Kusiek said she's been hearing from many parents like Chan-Simons who are concerned about the uncertainty created by the lottery at Lillian Osborne. She said she understands the frustration.

"This is something that the division saw coming, we have seen coming for many years. We have asked for additional funding for new schools," Kusiek said in an interview.

"We haven't been provided that in sufficient quantity, and now we're stuck in this situation where we have to figure out where all the students go."

Ward F trustee Julie Kusiek said the lottery system was chosen because it's easy to turn on and off as needed. (Julie Kusiek)

Kusiek, who was first elected to the school board in October, said it's her understanding that there was some consultation with parents, and that options like moving the borders of attendance areas were explored.

However, she said the lottery system was chosen because it's easy to turn on and off to deal with pressures as needed. 

"Either way you slice it, whether you're changing borders or whether you're doing a lottery, there's going to be kids that aren't getting into the school that they want to get into," she said. 

Kusiek said she and other trustees want to hear from affected families, but said parents should also be sure to email their MLA.

"Send it to the province and let them know because your email helps back up what we're asking for, and what we're asking for is more high school space to be able to accommodate student growth," she said.

A new high school in the Glenridding Heights neighbourhood of southwest Edmonton is at the top of the public division's wish list for provincial funding.

Kusiek said Dr. Anne Anderson High School in the southwest, which opened last year, and the planned building of a new high school in the southeast will help, but it's not enough to meet demand across the city.

For Chan-Simons, the division's strategy for dealing with the population increase is cold comfort. She said the city, school divisions and province should have done more to meet the growing need.

"She won't get the benefits, and neither will the students in her grade," she said of her daughter.

"You had 14 years to deal with this, and you couldn't build the schools."

Edmonton Catholic Schools does not have a lottery system.

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