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'Just devastating': Over-capacity schools creating problems for Calgary families

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Parents in a southeast Calgary neighbourhood are speaking out after being told their kids couldn’t attend a nearby school.

Several families living in Auburn Bay planned to have their kids attend Lakeshore School, but that won’t be the case come fall.

Despite living only about five minutes away, May Salem’s son is one of the students who is now stuck on the wait list.

Her son was to graduate from his elementary school this year and attend Lakeshore School for Grade 6 in September. Instead, Salem says he’ll have to take a 20-minute bus ride to Nickle School everyday.

“You can’t imagine, he’s literally terrified,” said Salem. “He’s a very a very smart kid and having to go through this mental health issue of being dragged away from his friends and put on a bus to go somewhere else is just devastating.”

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) said due to rising enrolment, it had to implement an overflow process.

When schools are overcapacity, CBE uses a tiered lottery system to decide who gets accepted.

“Lotteries are a long-standing practice used at many CBE schools. The lottery process was established to ensure fair and equitable access and provide a consistent approach across our system,” read a statement from CBE.

According to the school board, all Priority 1 students can attend Lakeshore school.

Priority 1 students are those who live within the walk zone who have a sibling that will be attending the same program in the same school, concurrently.

The CBE also said most Priority 2 students can attend.

Priority 2 students are those who live outside the walk zone but in the designated area for the school, who will have a sibling in the same school at the same time; or students living within the walk zone who do not have a sibling in the school.

“He’s not understanding why and when I tell him it’s because it’s the way it was laid out, he says, ‘but we live here,’” said Salem.

The school serves children from both Auburn Bay, where it’s located, and the nearby community of Mahogany.

Salem feels the the school should prioritize those who live close by rather than catering to those in Mahogany, since they’d have to commute either way.

“Why CBE has elected to force all students into the busing system is beyond any reasonable explanation, forcing a drive in costs to families, not to mention the environmental impacts,” said Christopher Todd, another parent whose child didn’t get into the school.

CBE says it’s experienced record enrolment over the last two years, adding over 13,000 students to the system.

The school board notes 32 schools currently have overflows in place.

Upset parents CTV News spoke with say over-capacity schools are a failure of multiple levels of government.

Education is a key area of concern for the 2024 provincial budget, which is set to be tabled on Thursday.

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