Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

The Trouble With Raising A Family In Downtown Vancouver

April 6, 2017 // Vancouver

Downtown living can be absolutely fabulous until it’s time to register your child for kindergarten at the local public school. It turns out that each year more and more people choose to stay and raise their family downtown. However, the Vancouver public school spaces have never caught up to that fact. It’s all about ‘bums in the seat’ when it comes to funding and you can’t pre count those tiny tushes before they are sitting there. Lack of kindergarten spaces in Vancouver is a chronic issue, nearly a decade old, that rears its head annually.

Back when we were busy registering our first child for kindergarten I put so much energy into whether or not he would be accepted by lottery to our neighbourhood school. If he didn’t get a spot in our local catchment, where would he go to school? I most certainly stressed over this issue.

Long story short, he did not get a spot and was at the end of the waitlist. However, we ended up being quite happy with our ‘runner up’ school and have enjoyed our four years there. When it was time for our second child to register for kindergarten we had to start back at square one.

You can read all about our first experience with our first Vancouver school lottery system experience here

Since our first child was an ‘over flow’ student, the usual sibling priority for registration you’re entitled to at your catchment school does not exist. Even if your child was placed at a Vancouver school due to lack of spaces in your neighbourhood school, siblings have zero priority. Instead you must go through the hoops, register at your catchment school, apply for cross boundary and hope for the best. This is a rather questionable process as all nearby schools are technically considered ‘full’ and do not except cross boundary students.

As a parent you could have a brand new kindergarten student at one school and their sibling could be somewhere else entirely within Vancouver. Not an ideal set up considering the transition into kindergarten includes dropping off in the classroom and picking up at the same spot. How does a family with young children manage that without it being a hardship?

This time around we were randomly lucky. Through the school lottery we got a spot at our local school for kindergarten. However, having two kids at two different schools was not ideal for our family at all. Today we heard that our cross boundary application for Josie was, amazingly, approved. We will have two kids at the same school and we all couldn’t be more happy. This could have played out in so many different ways and we were lucky it worked out the way it did.

Downtown Vancouver has just opened its third regular elementary school, there is a K-3 Annex attached to one of the schools, in the downtown core. Apparently there will be three kindergarten classrooms at the new school and the spots for next year are all currently filled.









About the author

Hi! I'm Andrea, a 30 something girl who loves living the downtown lifestyle and didn't want to give it up once I started a family. Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Im also in Yaletown and my kid did not get a spot at our catchment school and we’ve never heard a peep RE: The waitlist. We were in one of the over flow schools in a totally different part of the city and it was a serious stress on our family. We chose to be car free because we lived downtown and taking transit for 1.5-2 hours a day on top of everything else was a lot of work. We ended up pulling our child out of public school and ended up at a local montessori school.

  2. Love your honesty with the troublesome side of living in a dense area. So many families really are staying downtown and I think that each year the numbers are just going to get that more insane. Families with kids who are 2 or 3 years old right now, really need to get proactive and involved. Don’t wait till it is just before registration time to figure out a plan for your family and/or be involved in the school board meetings on school planning. Years ago they talked about a school in Coal Harbour. Where is it? Plans fell flat yet more and more families are living there.

  3. SO happy that it worked out for you! What a head ache. Now let’s get back to how sweet and grown up this little lady looks!

  4. Where we live the kids don’t always get into their local school even if they live 5 minutes away. They get bussed around to get them to emptier schools. It’s a real hot mess actually. The whole system is broken.

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