Parents camp out in snow to register kids for kindergarten

VANCOUVER - Freezing temperatures and a heavy snowfall weren't enough to deter Yaletown parents from camping out at Elsie Roy elementary school on the weekend.

Some 16 parents set up tents in the school courtyard Friday and Saturday in a bid to enroll their children in kindergarten when registration opens Monday morning.

The parents, who were invited to spend Sunday inside the school gym, put their names on a registration list for one of the 44 kindergarten places available. Siblings of current students will get priority.

"We saw people lining up and we thought, ‘We'd better get in,'" said Aaron Tavakoli, who decided to camp out at 10 p.m. Friday.

"The school board website's special section screams panic because it says there are no spaces, that we're extremely limited. This is for the next 10 to 11 years of our lives."

Tavakoli, whose son Ayden is seventh in line after Tavakoli joined the campout Friday, said he ended up sleeping in his car because it was so cold. On Saturday, he set up his tent on the school grounds.

He joined parents such as Ann Mellstrom, whose boyfriend Chris Blair was first in line after setting up camp at 7:45 a.m. Friday in hopes of getting a spot for Mellstrom's son Ethan, 4.

Parents have been lining up to enroll their children at Elsie Roy since it opened. Historically, an overflow of kindergarten students has gone to neighbouring schools, including Lord Roberts, Roberts Annex, Strathcona and Simon Fraser.

But parents argue they shouldn't have to enroll their children in schools such as Strathcona, located in the Downtown Eastside, because it's too far to walk and isn't a savoury neighbourhood.

"Saying there's capacity at Strathcona doesn't cut it because nobody wants to go there," Tavakoli said.

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