Vancouver School Catchments and How They Work

School catchments can be tricky to work around. Everybody wants the best education for their kids. As such, parents will spend a long time looking for the perfect school to send their young ones. You might think that you’ve found the best school around, but getting into just any school is a little harder than it seems. You might be restricted by a number of factors, such as location and catchment areas.

What is my Catchment Area?

A catchment area is the area from which a city, service, or institution attracts a population that uses its services. A school catchment area is the geographic area from which students are eligible to attend a local school.

The point of the catchment areas is to ensure that each school has the capacity to accommodate the anticipated enrolment of students within the area. The areas have been carefully determined based on the accommodation availability of the school, accessibility of the schools to the students, as well as the safety of students travelling to and from school.

How to locate School Catchments?

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) offers a tool to help you identify your catchment school. All you need to do is plug in your street name (only the name itself and not your address) and voila! Your schools have been located.

How is Catchment different from distance?

The idea of school catchments related to distance, and to some extent, they are. Where the difference lies is that school catchments have a defined geographical line around the area that they will accept applicants from. Even if one student’s actual distance from school is closer than another student’s, it doesn’t guarantee them a place if their home isn’t within the catchment area.

It is also possible that you’re within catchment for more than one school. In that case, you can apply to several schools to guarantee a place.

What is the order of priority?

Vancouver is increasingly become more and more dense. Instead of single-family homes, more people and family are living in townhouses and condos where mom and dad have an easy commute to work. For the Greater Vancouver area, this means that many schools are seeing a surplus of students. For this reason, priority is given when it comes to admission.

Schools will give priority based on the following considerations:

  1. Available space
  2. Catchment areas
  3. Out of catchment area with sibling already attending same school/program
  4. Out of catchment
  5. Out of district

What is cross-boundary enrollment and how does it work?

Cross-boundary enrollment allows parents to enroll their children in schools outside their “home” school boundary.

You are allowed to register your child at a school outside your catchment area as a cross-boundary applicant, but your application will only be considered after all in-catchment students have been accommodated.

To make a cross-boundary application, you must first register at your regular catchment school before completing and submitting a cross-boundary application.

Can I move house or rent property to get into a specific school?

You wouldn’t be the first parent to up and move nearer to a school to increase your child’s chance of admission into a good school. But there are still some requirements and legalities you should be aware of. For example, the address you give on your child’s school application must be their permanent place of residence.

There is a cut-off date for enrollment which means that you must have moved before submitting your application. The general advice to follow is that you have to have moved home by November since applications take place throughout January and February.

You can also apply to schools based on accepted offers on homes with subject removed.

To help in your search for schools and catchment areas, take a look at this map of the catchment areas in Greater Vancouver.

You can also see individual School District maps on the government of BC’s website.

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