Royal Vale kindergarten spots cause parents to line up overnight

Some parents have been in line in the frigid cold since noon Sunday, hoping to secure a coveted kindergarten spot for their children.

Parents spend night in cars, light fire in a bin in front of building to keep warm

Shortly before 6:30 a.m., parents were allowed into the school. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

Some parents have been lined up in the frigid cold since noon Sunday, hoping to secure a coveted kindergarten spot for their children.

At Royal Vale School, about 30 people were outside shortly after 6 a.m. They lit a small fire in a garbage can in front of the school to warm up. Temperatures dipped to - 22 C, or - 36 with the wind chill.

People waiting in line were let into the school around 6:30 a.m.

Cassidy Niyogi has been there since yesterday. This morning, she was passing out warm brownies to other parents in the line-up.

Niyogi says the parents are bonding with each other over the experience.

"Out front, it was a great team. Very uniting. We can say 'oh, we're doing it for our kids.' It was a party," she said.

Royal Vale School is her top choice for her daughter.

"There’s a strong academic program, there’s a focus on math and science, strong enriched extracurricular program, [it’s a] neighbourhood school," she said.

First-come-first-served policy

The line-ups aren't exclusive to Royal Vale — two other schools are also dealing with people waiting in line.

Kindergarten enrolment is done on a first-come-first-served basis.

The stakes are high for parents passionate about what school their children attend. Once one child is enrolled at a school, younger children in the same family automatically get preference for placements at that school.

Parents at Royal Vale said they didn’t mind waiting — but were open to changing the registration policy, suggesting a lottery system instead.

Mike Cohen, spokesman for the English Montreal school board, said this situation has been happening at Royal Vale for more than 20 years.

Cohen said the demand to get into Royal Vale can be seen as an encouraging sign, especially in a time of declining enrolment at the school board. However, he said, the board is looking at alternatives. 

EMSB chair Angela Mancini told CBC's Radio Noon she has asked the board to re-evaluate the situation, or "see if next year we can come up with something that's a little more bearable considering the weather we have here in Montreal — to see if there would be a better way of doing it."

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