Fireplaces were going for warmth. People were zipped up tight in their parkas and their sleeping bags. The parking lot was full.
More than 80 parents braved sub-zero temperatures Monday to stand in line at Vernon’s Beairsto Elementary hoping to ensure a French immersion kindergarten spot for their children in September.
The first person or persons in the lineup – they were believed sleeping in a tent when the reporter showed up at 6:15 a.m. Monday – were said to have shown up late Sunday afternoon.
Jarett Pereboom was No. 2 in line. He arrived at 5 a.m. to spell his wife, who got to the school at midnight.
“We’re taking turns,” said Pereboom, who has two kids, the first of which would be in kindergarten in September. “Obviously it’s important to us. That’s why we’re lining up.”
The lineup, as of 6:15 a.m. Monday, extended from the front doors of the 27th Street school around the corner to the back playing field.
There were at least four propane fireplaces scattered throughout the lineups helping people stay warm.
Rachel Jenkins, mother of five, was No. 89 at the back of the lineup. She was hoping to have her fifth child enrolled in kindergarten and then to have the child attend Beairsto, keeping with the family tradition.
Beairsto, a French immersion school, has no kindergarten programs. There are two French immersion kindergarten classes each offered at Alexis Park and Harwood schools with room for 20 students in each class.
Jenkins, who attended Beairsto where her mother was a teacher, recalled how she simply walked in to the school with her first two kids and registered.
The lineup process, she recalled, began with her third child about 10 years ago.
“You’d walk up to the line, you’d get a number, leave and come back,” said Jenkins, who has two kids current enrolled in Beairsto in Grades 1 and 3.
“Two years ago, my now Grade 1 student had to register for kindergarten, I got No. 80 when I showed up to drop off my older children. This is the first time I’ve decided to come and stand in line after hearing how bad it was going to be this year.”
School district superintendent Joe Rogers said later Monday that 83 people had signed up for the 80 kindergarten spots.
“The other three will go to kindergarten at their regular catchment area schools, and the parents can apply for them to attend Grade 1 at Beairsto,” said Rogers.
“All 80 kindergarten kids would go to Beairsto for Grades 1 to 7.”
There is a late French immersion program offered at Harwood that starts in Grade 6.
W.L. Seaton is a French immersion secondary school in the district.
Asked about parents having to stand in line in winter conditions to assure their children get a French immersion spot, Rogers said the district’s board of directors are exploring all options.
“Some districts use online registration, some use a lottery system,” he said. “We’ve used this same process, first-come, first-served, for the last 20 years. But the board is looking at other options.”