Calgary Schooling

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Age categories

Children attend school from kindergarten (at about the age of five) to grade twelve (at about the age of eighteen).

Schooling from kindergarten to grade twelve is abbreviated as K-12.

Kindergarten runs for five half-days a week. It is not compulsory but, since it is government-funded, most families avail themselves of it.

Compulsory schooling begins in grade one. That also is the start of full-day schooling.

The BE Wiki article on School Age Categories-Canada has a chart that compares the ages at which Canadian children complete various grades and the ages at which British Children complete them.

Levels of schooling:

  • Elementary school : Kindergarten - grade 6 (about 5 - 12 years of age)
  • Junior high school : grades 7 - 9 (about 13 - 15 years of age)
  • Senior high school : grades 10 - 12 (about 16 - 18 years of age)


CBE's cut off dates

The Calgary Board of Education's rule is that, in the early grades (kindergarten and grade one), the child's age on March 1st determines the grade that he/she will enter the following September.

A child who is four on March 1st, 2009 is eligible to enroll for kindergarten for the academic year that starts at the beginning of September 2009.

A child who is five on March 1st, 2009 is eligible to enroll in grade one for the academic year that starts at the beginning of September 2009.

If a child is six years old on September 1st, 2009 and has not yet gone to school, he/she must start school at that point.

If your child will be in a more advanced grade when he/she reaches Calgary, please read about grade allocation in the section entitled Enrollment of expat children, below.

Government-funded schools

The majority of children attend government-funded schools. There are two government-funded school systems in Calgary:

School allocation

Both the Public and Separate School Boards assign children to schools according to the geographic locations in which the children live. If you want your child to attend a specific school, the most reliable way for you to ensure that your child can attend that school is to buy or rent a residence in that school's catchment area.

Here are Calgary's Public Schools listed by Community, and here is a web page on which you can search for Catholic Schools by Community.

Schools give priority to students who live in their official catchment areas. Only if a school has space to spare will it accept a student from outside of its catchment area. With the current influx of people to Calgary, many schools are filled to capacity. You should not bank on being able to get your child into a school that is not the officially designated school for the community in which you live.

When a school in a given neighbourhood is overflowing, the school board re-assigns some of the children in that neighbourhood to a school in a different neighbourhood. If that happens, children are transported to the more distant school by bus. Some families are in the ironical situation of living across the street from schools that their children are not allowed to attend. That can happen when a family lives on a street that forms the boundary of a residential area that has been assigned to a school in another community.

Bussing of children to more distant schools is most likely to happen in the newer suburbs at the outer edges of Calgary (Or where the population has reached such an age that the number of children in a specific age range is too low to merit the retention\maintainance of a school as happened in Varsity with an elemantary school). When a community is new, it sometimes takes a few years for school amenities in that community to "catch up." In addition to that, new neighbourhoods tend to be more affordable (because they don't yet have mature trees, schools, etc.). More affordable neighbourhoods are the ones that tend to attract young families, in which the parents are at earlier stages of their careers and not yet earning that much money. So this produces a Catch 22 situation. The newest neighbourhoods are the ones that are most likely to lack schools. Yet the newest neighbourhoods are the ones that are likely to have the highest concentration of young children living in them.

Having your children bused to a school outside of your neighbourhood is not the end of the world. However, it does mean that your children will tend to make friends with children who live elsewhere in the city. You'll probably find yourself doing more than the average amount of driving, so that your children can visit their friends, attend birthday parties, and so on.

If you care whether or not your child will be able to walk to school, you should check on the school situation in a given neighbourhood when you buy or rent a home. Discount any claims that anyone, such as a real estate salesperson, makes about future building of schools in the neighbourhood. Yes, the school board may have said that it would be building a school in a given neighbourhood in the next couple of years. But considerable delays have been known to happen. So, unless you see the school with your own eyes, take any promises about it with a pinch of salt.

For more information on Calgary neighbourhoods, read the BE Wiki article on Calgary.

School specialization

Both the Public School Board and Catholic School Board offer English schools and French Immersion schools. In addition to that the school boards offer such alternative programs as:

At Elementary level, in addition to the above, there are alternative programs in Montessouri and Traditional Learning Centres as well as arts, sciences and aboriginal. There is also a workplace learning school. These programs all accept out of catchment students with bussing provided. http://www.cbe.ab.ca/programs/prog-kinder.asp

Charter Schools

Links to schools' websites will be added as time permits.

  • Almadina Language Charter School - ESL
  • Calgary Arts Academy
  • Calgary Girls School
  • Calgary Science School
  • Foundations for the Future Academy - direct teaching, phonics, strong parent involvement
  • Westmount Charter School - for gifted students

Enrollment of expat children

The Public School Board Admissions Office that processes expat children is open year-round (although it operates for only three days a week during the summer vacation in July and August).

It is Kingsland Centre, and it is located at 7430 – 5 Street SW, Calgary (telephone 403-777-7373).

A prior appointment, booked at least two weeks in advance, is advised. The Admissions Office at Kingsland Centre processes a high volume of newly arrived students during the summer, in anticipation of the beginning of the academic year in September. In addition to that, it is open for only three days a week during July and August. So it is recommended that you book an appointment as far in advance as possible.

The Admissions Office will usually test your child and recommend the grade that would be most suitable for him or her. Your child's grade assignment is not written in stone. The classroom teacher will observe the child for the first month or so to confirm whether or not the initial placement was appropriate. During that trial period the teacher may recommend that your child be moved to a different grade.

It will help if you obtain from your child's UK school the curriculum that he/she studied in core subjects like English and Math(s). It also will help if you bring a couple of notebooks that contain examples of his or her work.

Free attendance of government-funded schools

The following minor children may receive free tuition from public schools:

  • Canadian citizen
  • Permanent resident
  • Birth child of a work permit holder
  • Birth child of a work permit holder's spouse
  • Child of a student visa holder who is registered in a full-time university course for at least one year

The Catholic School Board's registration criteria are similar to those of the Public School Board. In the case of the Catholic School Board, however, at least one parent must be a Roman Catholic.

Admission criteria in Cochrane (which falls into the Rockyview School Division) and Okotoks (which falls into the Foothills School Division) are similar to those in Calgary.

Note that foreign children who come to Canada as unaccompanied minors first have to obtain student visas and are charged tuition in the order of C$10,000 per student per year.

Also note that free tuition does not mean 100% free schooling. Depending on the jurisdiction, school boards may charge bus fees, locker rentals, surcharges for courses that use expensive equipment and materials, etc. However, these extra fees are quite modest, and certainly are nothing like the C$10,000/year tuition that foreign students are charged.

Registration documents

When you register your child, you need to present the following documents:

  • Parent’s passport
  • Parent’s permit or visa for living and working or studying in Canada
  • Child’s passport
  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Documentation that demonstrates that the family lives within CBE’s catchment area. Typically this is an offer to purchase a residence or a residential rental agreement.

If the child who is being enrolled is the child of the spouse of a work permit holder, the following additional documents are required:

  • Work permit holder's passport
  • Work permit holder's temporary work permit
  • Marriage certificate of the work permit holder and the spouse who is the parent of the child
  • Documents that prove that the work permit holder has adopted the child or that demonstrate that the other birth parent has released custody of the child and that the work permit holder's spouse has sole custody
  • Child's study permit

The Catholic School Board's registration procedures are similar. In the case of the Catholic School Board, however, there is the additional requirement that the baptismal certificate of at least one parent be presented at the time of registration.

Children of work permit holders

Study permits

Perusal of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of 2001, phone calls to Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Call Centre, and phone calls to the Calgary Board of Education's Admissions Office, all confirm that minor children of work permit holders do not need study permits to enroll in Calgary schools or, for that matter, any schools in Alberta. A minor child of a work permit holder needs only a temporary residence visa.

However, there have been anecdotal accounts on the BE forum that some immigration officials and some Calgary School Board officials have demanded that children of work permit holders have study permits. There appears to be confusion amongst immigration and school officials regarding the rules that pertain to minor children of work permit holders.

Since that is the case, you might want to take the precaution of obtaining study permits for your children if you will be coming to Calgary on a work permit. It'll save you a lot of hassle if you happen to bump into an official who is ignorant of the law.

If the child who is being enrolled in school is the child of the spouse of a work permit holder, the Calgary Board of Education's Admissions Office has categorically stated that such a child does need a study permit.

Tuition

Research by BE forum members has brought to light the fact that all government-funded school jurisdictions in Alberta provide close-to-free schooling for children of temporary work permits holders, just as they do for Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

But please note that children of temporary work permit holders are treated differently by different school jurisdictions across Canada. Some government-funded school boards charge children of work permit holders the same international tuition fees (around C$10,000 per student per year) that they charge unaccompanied minors who come to Canada on student visas.

The approach to children of work permit holders can differ from one school jurisdiction to another within the same province. So, if you are moving to a province other than Alberta or Ontario (both of which provide close-to-free schooling for children of work permit holders), you need to research the admission criteria of the specific school board that your children will be accessing.

Recce trips

It's ideal to be able to visit a school during a recce trip to Calgary. If you visit Calgary in July or August, however, you will not be able to visit schools, because they are shut down for the summer vacation. On the other hand, each school board's admissions office is open year-round. Keep in mind that most Calgary Board of Education offices although open year round operate on a four day week during the summer months (July and August) and are therefore closed on Fridays. Kingsland Centre, which processes newly arrived children, is open three days a week during July and August.

School calendars

Here are the Public School Board's calendars.

  • The academic year finishes at the end of June.
  • Students are on vacation for the entire months of July and August.
  • Teachers return to work and start preparing for school during the last few days of August.
  • Students traditionally start the new academic year on the day after the Labour Day public holiday. Labour Day is the first Monday in September, and children typically start school on the following day, the Tuesday.
  • Students get a two-week break over Christmas and New Year.
  • Students get a five-day break that spans the third weekend in February. School is out on the Thursday and the Friday so that teachers can attend the Alberta Teachers' Association Convention. Then on the Monday there is the Family Day public holiday.
  • Students get a ten-day break in the spring. Depending on the timing of Easter, spring break may or may not coincide with Easter.
  • Schools are closed on professional development days (when teachers attend professional seminars and workshops) and on public holidays.

The Catholic School Board's calendar is similar to that of the Public School Board, but dates vary a little. For example, the Catholic Schools' spring break often is a week earlier or later than the Public Schools' spring break.

Private / Independent schools

Banbury Crossroads School Pre K - 12. Small, well-rounded, university-prepatory school that allows students to complete the curriculum at their own pace.

Calgary French and International School Pre K - 10. French Immersion and intensive Spanish courses.

Calgary Waldorf School Preschool - 9. Follows Waldorf curriculum.

Delta West Academy K - 12. School for average, above average and gifted children.

Edelweiss Preparatory School Pre K - 6. Traditional school that strives for excellence in education.

Edge School for Athletes 6 - 12 . University-preparatory school that strives for excellence in both academic and athletic arenas.

Edison Private School K - 12. Located in Okotoks. Caters to average and above average children.

Equilibrium Int'l Education Institute 10 - 12. High school and English as a Second Language institute.

Green Learning Academy K - 9. The school uses Cerebratic Accelerated Learning, which encourages each student to acquire knowledge through his or her preferred learning style.

Lycee Louis Pasteur Preschool - 9. French and English bilingual school.

Master's Academy and College K - 12. Christian school with a creative approach to learning.

Montessori School of Calgary K - 6. Follows Montessori principles of education.

Mountain Gate Community School K - 6. Located in Canmore. Has a friendly, family-oriented atmosphere.

Mountain View Academy K - 12. Christian school with a back-to-basics approach and an enriched curriculum.

River Valley School K - 6. Offers Montessori and Traditional streams.

Rundle College Preschool - 12. A school for children of average to superior academic ability.

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School 1 - 12. Located in Okotoks, with bussing from Calgary. Strives for excellence in scholarship, leadership and character. Offers International Baccalaureate Diploma program.

Webber Academy Jr K - 12. University-preparatory school for above average and gifted children.

West Island College Focuses on the whole child. Includes International Travel Studies programs. The school owns a 42-passenger tall ship that allows grade eleven students the opportunity to study and travel abroad.

Private Religious Schools

Links to the schools' websites will be added as time permits.

  • Akiva Academy - Jewish Orthodox
  • Bearspaw Christian School
  • Calgary Christian School
  • Calgary Jewish Academy
  • Clear Water Academy - Catholic
  • Eastside Christian Academy
  • Glenmore Christian Academy
  • Heritage Christian Academy
  • Menno Simons Christian School
  • Prince of Peace Lutheran School
  • Trinity Christian School

Private Special Needs Schools

Links to the schools' websites will be added as time permits.

  • Calgary Academy - for bright children
  • Foothills Academy - for children with learning disabilities
  • Janus Academy- for children with autism
  • Renfrew Educational Services - operates five campuses for children with a variety of special needs
  • Rundle Academy - a branch of Rundle College that caters to children with learning disabilities
  • The Third Academy - for children with mild, moderate or severe disabilities

Satellite Towns

Rocky View School Division is a public school board that serves:

  • Airdrie
  • Bearspaw
  • Beiseker
  • Bragg Creek
  • Chestermere
  • Cochrane
  • Crossfield
  • Indus
  • Kathryn
  • Langdon
  • Springbank

Foothills School Division is a public school board that serves:

  • Black Diamond
  • Blackie
  • Cayley
  • DeWinton
  • High River
  • Longview
  • Millarville
  • Okotoks
  • Turner Valley

Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District also serves:

  • Airdrie
  • Chestermere
  • Cochrane

Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools serve the following towns:

  • Brooks
  • Canmore
  • Drumheller
  • High River
  • Okotoks
  • Oyen
  • Strathmore

Note that the geographic area that is served by Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools is large. Brooks, for example, is 2 hours' drive from Calgary, while Oyen is nearly 4 hours' drive from Calgary. On the other hand, Okotoks is quite close to Calgary.

Ranking schools

Canada does not have League Tables like the UK. Nonetheless, it is possible to get some sense of schools' performance relative to one another by reading the Fraser Institute's School Report Cards.

Some people consider the information to be suspect, because the Fraser Institute is a right-wing think tank. Be that as it may, it's interesting to observe what a high level of correlation there is between the Fraser Institute's rankings of schools and local residents' perception of the quality of various schools.

The Fraser Institute's lists for Alberta high schools and Alberta elementary schools are difficult to read. For one thing, all schools -- public, Catholic and private -- are lumped together in one list. For another thing, schools located in different cities and towns are lumped together in a single list for the province. To make any sense of the list, it helps to be familiar with the area in which you live. That enables you quickly to spot the schools that are of interest to you -- the schools that belong to your school board.

People who know Calgary and who read the Fraser Institute's list find that the government-funded schools that tend to appear in a favourable light on that list also tend to be schools that are located in the nicer quadrants of the city and that have lower crime rates according to Community Crime Statistics When it comes to private schools, however, the correlation between Fraser Institute ranking and the school's location collapses.

More information

This is one in a series of BE Wiki articles about Canadian Schooling.

This also is one in a series of BE Wiki articles about Calgary.

You also may find it useful to read the article called Education on the Calgarypedia website. At the time that the link to the Calgarypedia website is being added to this article (Ocotber 8th, 2008), there is a lot of overlap between their article and this one. However, since the Calgarypedia website also is a Wiki-style website, more contributions may be made to their article over the course of time. Therefore, it might be worth your while to check their article if you come across this link in the future.