A Newcomer’s Guide to Schooling in Edmonton
Settling into a new country can be a big challenge, and if you have kids, you have even more to think about. Canada has one of the best school systems in the world, but it may be quite different from what you’re used to. Don’t worry, this guide to schooling in Edmonton is here to help!
We’ve put this article together to help you learn all about schooling in Canada and your options here in Edmonton. Pay attention because where you live will play a role in where your kids go to school.
The Basics of Schooling in Canada
In general, schools in Canada run from late August/early September through to mid- or late-June. The school day usually runs for around six hours between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., though individual school times vary greatly.
In Canada, students enter kindergarten between the ages of 4 – 6 depending on birthdate and cutoffs in each district. They continue to progress until graduation at grade 12.
The earlier grades are considered “primary school” while the later grades (around grade seven) are considered “secondary”. An elementary school has students in kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade. Junior high schools usually house grades seven through nine: and high schools have grades nine through 12.
There are variations to these rules – think of the above as general guides. Once you’ve found a neighbourhood you love, you can start looking into the particulars of the schools in that community.
Before kindergarten, schooling is not mandatory, though some parents choose to enroll their kids in a preschool program, especially if they need daycare during working hours.
After high school graduation, many students go on to a post-secondary program, which could include college, university, or a trade school.
Public vs. Private Schools
Another important thing to note about schools in Canada is that there are both public and private schools. Public schools are funded by the government. Parents may need to buy some school supplies and/or pay an activity fee each year, but the majority of the costs are completely covered.
Due to Canada’s excellent educational system, over 90 percent of children in Canada attend public schools. With that said, the option is there to attend a private school if parents prefer the program style or want their children to have faith-based learning.
In Edmonton, the two main schooling options are the public school system and the Catholic school system, each with its own sets of pros and cons. Determining which is the right fit for you will depend on a variety of factors.
Your Home = Your School Zone
Children attending public school will usually attend their neighbourhood school. This is the school that’s closest to their home. In some cases, it’s close enough to walk. Otherwise, transportation will be provided by bus.
As you look for a location to live, it’s important to research the schools in the area. This is especially true if you’re looking for a specialized program for your child. Even those who don’t have children should be conscious of the reputation of the neighbourhood schools, as this can affect property value.
Something to note: depending on the specialized school you’re looking for (i.e.: heavy arts program or sports focus) you may be able to enroll outside of your designated zone. There are also some schools that run a lottery program – but there’s no guarantee that your child will get in with that scenario.
Choosing an Alternative School
In many cases – particularly in areas that are closer to the downtown Edmonton area – neighbourhood schools are only open to children who live in that designated area. This helps keep the school population under control so that there is always a spot for the children who live there.
However, some newer schools are not yet full and are open to taking students from other designated areas. If you’re interested in attending a school that’s outside of your designated area, it’s best to call the school directly to see what their policy is.
Specialty Schooling Options
Most families opt for a traditional education at a neighbourhood school, but you should be aware that there are some specialty options available, in both the public and private sectors.
For instance, some parents choose a school that offers a language immersion program, where children learn primarily in French or another second language. This helps to improve the child’s language abilities.
Other families appreciate the religious education that’s found in Catholic schools. There are both public and private Catholic schools, and they’re located near almost every neighbourhood.
Finally, some children have unique learning needs, such as those who have a learning disability, behavioural challenges, or autism. Some schools are better at working with these students than others.
Other Unique School Services for Newcomers
Fortunately, schools recognize that children from immigrant families have unique challenges, and the school staff is ready to rise to the occasion. If your home language is not English or French, your child could be eligible to receive English/French as a second language service at school.
Additionally, schools often have a Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program, which helps new immigrants get adjusted to their new life in Canada by linking them with available resources. Don’t hesitate to reach out and use the services available to you anytime you need some help.
We hope this guide to schooling in Edmonton has been helpful for you. School is an important place for your child to learn and grow, and with so many great schools in Edmonton for newcomers to choose from, you’ll find that your child is able to quickly thrive. If you have any questions about which neighbourhood will be right for your child’s schooling needs, one of our Area Managers will be happy to help you.