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'We're having a lottery to get into kindergarten': Vancouver kids shut out of new downtown school
VANCOUVER -- As the former director of planning for the City of Vancouver, Brent Toderian put a lot of thought into where to put down roots.
Knowing they were going to have kids and didn't want to own a car, he and his wife bought a condo on Abbott Street 10 years ago, because a new school was being built across the street. Crosstown Elementary opened in 2017.
"Our 10-plus-year plan seemed to be working well, until we learned there was going to be a lottery for kindergarten," said Toderian.
"Roughly twice as many people in the lottery as there were spots, not great odds."
On Wednesday, Toderian learned his son did not get a spot in Crosstown Elementary for this fall.
"We got the news that our son had been rejected, wasn't one of the lucky ones, and the grief that comes with that," said Toderian. "My wife and I had a 10-year strategy based entirely on this school location. It's almost as if the school has closed. But it isn't closing, it's just closed to us."
Eli Puterman's son didn't win the kindergarten lottery either.
"We're really quite devastated. Our son's not going to be able to make friends in the neighborhood, play with his friends after school in the neighborhood," Puterman said. "If all I can afford is a million dollar condo on Main and Terminal, I should hope at least I can get my child into a school that's nearby. I think it's very poor planning. There's very little foresight about what the situation will be like a few years from now."
As a city planner, Toderian has unique insight into the problem. He thinks the provincial government has to come up with new ideas to create more school spaces in the downtown core, where increasing numbers of parents are choosing to live and raise families.
"The province needs to look at scenarios like renting office space temporarily, like the private schools do for example, to essentially create urban portables," Toderian said.
"Look, the Vancouver School Board is free to look an innovative ideas, that's exactly why they consult the community to get those kind of ideas," said Education Minister Rob Fleming.
With declining enrolment in many parts of the city and skyrocketing demand downtown, he say it's time for the Vancouver School Board to make some tough decisions.
"So the long-range facilities plan that we've asked VSB to submit to the province and to their constituents, the parents of the Vancouver School Board, I think, is a critically important visionary process for them to develop alongside city hall," said Fleming.
Puterman likes Toderian's idea of renting downtown office space for public schools. But he's worried the decision makers don't understand the changing landscape in Vancouver.
"I really think it's a lack of awareness of where people are actually living, where kids are being raised."
Puterman hasn't told his son he won't be starting kindergarten at the school down the street. He's considering driving him to a school near his work at UBC.
Toderian hasn't told his son the bad news either.
"What now? We don't know. Like many parents we have to apply to everything else," said Toderian. "We don't want to tell him he can't go here until we can tell him where he can go."