Now that you’ve got the feeding, sleeping and playtime schedules down pat, there’s another big parenting hurdle on the horizon—school. Registering for public school can be a bit overwhelming when you’ve never done it before.
Parents will likely have many questions, such as which school should my child go to? What if I don’t want to send my child to that school? What is an eligibility certificate and how do I obtain one? Will my child have to take a school bus?
But don’t worry. We’ve asked the experts from the school boards for information and advice about school registration.
The first decision parents must make is about language: are you going to choose the French system or is your child eligible for the English system? Once the language issue has been determined, contact your local school board to find out which school your child is zoned for. Usually, it’s the one closest to your home, but that depends on how the borders for each school’s zones have been drawn. All new registrations can be completed at your neighbourhood school, where administrators can guide you through the process.
Non-neighbourhood schools are the ones outside your immediate area. Parents who would like their children to attend a non-neighbourhood school can apply for a waiver (derogation) from the school board’s student services department. In doing this, parents must guarantee they will provide transportation to and from school.
The minimum age requirement for new students is based on the child’s age before September 30 of the year he or she starts school. Pre-kindergarten students must be 4, kindergarteners must be 5, and first graders must be 6. If parents want their children to start school at a younger age, they can request an early-admission derogation from the neighbourhood school or school board.
To register your child at an English public school, parents must provide the following documents:
A long-form birth certificate, which can be obtained by contacting the Directeur de l’état civil.
Proof of residency, such as a driver’s license or a utility bill.
Proof of vaccinations, which can be obtained from your child’s doctor, who usually maintains a record of your child’s vaccinations.
A certificate of eligibility from a parent or sibling. This document attests that your child can legally attend English public school under Bill 101. If one parent attended an English elementary school in Quebec before August 1977, his or her children are entitled to attend an English school. Children are also eligible if one parent attended English school for at least four years in any Canadian province (five years in Ontario). As well, if one of your children now attends English school, his or her siblings are also eligible.
Parents should start the process of obtaining their certificate of eligibility one or even two years prior to registering their children at school. Because people have many questions about their eligibility under Bill 101, most school boards have offices established especially to deal with this issue. You should contact your school board and they can walk you through the process of getting a certificate.
School boards have different cut-off dates for registration. The best idea is to contact the school of your choice. Most local school boards, including the English Montreal School Board and the Lester B. Pearson School Board, begin registration in the first week of February.
Services schools provide
If your child lives more than a certain distance from the neighbourhood school, he or she will be eligible for free transportation services. Usually kindergartners should live farther than 0.4 kilometres from the school and first graders and older students must live farther than 1.6 kilometres from the school to be eligible for free bus service. Special needs students can obtain transportation information from a school board’s student services department.
Most schools also offer some kind of before and after school care. Costs vary depending on how much you use the service. A child who is enrolled most days will probably be eligible for the $7 a day rate, set by the province, which includes lunchtime supervision.
What schools don’t provide
Free public schooling is a right for all children in Canada, but materials beyond textbooks are often the parents’ responsibility. So don’t be surprised if you get a bill for pencils and materials used in class. These fees are usually well under one hundred dollars, but vary by school.
Lunchtime supervision fees for students who stay in school over the lunch period are usually minimal, amounting to about one dollar a day depending on the school board and the school.
For More Information
Registering your child:
English Montreal School Board
www.emsb.qc.ca • (514) 483-7200
Lester B. Pearson School Board
www.lbpsb.qc.ca • (514) 422-3000
Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board
www.swlauriersb.qc.ca • (450) 621-5600
Quebec’s long-form birth certificate:
Directeur de l’état civil, 2050 Bleury St., 6th floor, Montreal
www.etatcivil.gouv.qc.ca • (514) 864-3900 or (800) 567-3900
Certificate of eligibility:
Ministère de l’éducation
Charter of the French Language