Canopies were set up in front of Hammond Elementary, tents were erected at the Albion Fairground, and Eric Langton parents lined up in front of the school.
To get their kids into what are called "choice programs" - French immersion, Montessori, the Environmental School - some local parents are willing to spend time out in cold - some for hours, some for days - trying to ensure their child is registered ahead of the pack - or at least gets to the top of the waitlist.
Kevin Bodman, who just took over as principal of Hammond Elementary, heard at a parent information meeting about the school's Montessori program and that parents intended to set up the night before to get their children into the program.
"I was surprised to hear that," Bodman said.
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, one couple set up a canopy and by the morning, when Bodman arrived at 7: 15 a.m., there were two canopies and about a dozen people waiting for registration.
There were only seven spots available for children, because priority had already been given to siblings of children in the school.
"There's a lot of people who believe in the Montessori philosophy," Bodman said, with its experience-based learning and multi-aged classrooms.
When he visits the classrooms, he likes to see how older students help younger students, and the students taking responsibility for their learning.
The school currently has five Montessori classes from Kindergarten to Grade 5.
Students who move from the Montessori program to the regular Grade 6 program do well in school, Bodman added.
That same weekend, families had pitched tents at the Albion Fairgrounds in anticipation of registering their children in the school district's environmental school.
There are special programs at several schools throughout the school district, including a year-round school - Kanaka Creek Elementary - and several French immersion schools including Pitt Meadows Elementary, Laity View, Eric Langton, and a late immersion program at Golden Ears Elementary.
Parents in the lineup for the environmental school expressed frustration that everyone who wanted to get into the program couldn't be accommodated.
But Laurie Meston, director of elementary education with the school district, said, while it's "frustrating" for parents when their children can't get into the programs they want to, it's "quite complicated" to simply add on more classes.
When choice programs like French immersion and Montessori are expanded, the school district has to find qualified teachers and buy new material to ensure program standards are maintained.
French immersion teachers are hard to find as there are fewer coming from Quebec these days, Meston said.
Also, if a program is full, and there is a waiting list of, for example, a handful of children, a new classroom can't be created for those few students.
In addition, the school district has to make sure that "all of our public is getting a good education," Meston said.
"We have great schools that aren't 'choice'," she added.
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