B.C. Education Minister Rob Evans announcing back in March the indefinite closure of public schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, joined at the podium by Finance Minister Carole James and Health Minister Adrian Dix. (File photo)

Downside for parents who opted out of Central Okanagan School District programs

Students enroled in alternate education programs may lose catchment school spot

It’s become a risky move for parents who registered their kids in programs outside the Central Okanagan School District earlier this summer.

Those students lost their spot at their catchment schools and were given no priority status for enrolling back in the school system.

Central Okanagan school trustee Amy Geistlinger felt parents were being unfairly penalized for making difficult education decisions for their children in June and July when schools resuming classes in September was uncertain because of the COVID-19 pandemic and prior to the ministry of education deciding in August to offer an enhanced eSchoolBC home learning option.

“Parents were faced with making difficult decisions and should not be penalized for being put in that position,” Geistlinger said.

Under student placement regulations, Geistlinger asked these students to be placed fifth on the priority list to qualify as returning catchment area students, who have transferred into the school or program they previously attended from eSchool BC, a homeschooling or a distributed learning program offer by another education organization.

READ MORE: More school portables rising enrolment reality for Central Okanagan schools

READ MORE: Central Okanagan schools adjusting to changes

Geistlinger called it an equity fairness issue, saying it offered no guarantees students would be placed back in their catchment schools, but at least created that possibility, calling it a “compassionate gesture.”

Currently, students who opted out of the school system have until a Nov. 13 deadline to re-register back into the school they attended last year without losing their spot.

But the other school trustees were not sympathetic to Geistlinger’s resolution, unified in opposing the amendment to the existing policy.

Trustee Norah Bowman said it was unfair to reward parents who opted out of the school system because they could afford another alternative, such as private school.

She said leaving the school system is similar to moving to another community and enrolling in a new school system, saying many parents couldn’t afford other private schooling options and there remains catchment waiting lists at some schools.

She didn’t think it fair for students to opt-out and then be dropped back in with any priority over other students.

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