“A person without education is like a building without foundation”
“Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I was young, it used to be that parents bought a house and the kids went to the local school, usually within a few blocks walk from the front door. There was a choice between the Calgary Board of Education ‘regular’ program school and a Calgary Catholic School District School. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that the concept of ‘bilingual’ education came to Calgary, and even then, it was limited to French and English. Not many families in my world considered busing across town for a program, attending a Charter school, or going private. If they did, they were the rare exception.
Calgary today is a very different kettle of ‘education’ fish. There is almost more to choose from and access in terms of education for our school age children than there are districts to move into, as the expansion has been mind boggling to say the least. It is an awesome place to raise and educate kids, you just need to be mindful of what is out there and what you want. Off the top of my head, the Calgary Board of Education alone offers: regular, bilingual (French, Mandarin, Spanish, Italian), science, traditional model (which focuses on higher academic standards in math and sciences), arts focus, sports focus, full year calendar, and more. That’s not even looking at what the CCSD offers or any of the many private schools around the city and province.
From a real estate perspective, it is worth your while to find a realtor how has a good grasp of this, so to prevent future disappointment or nightmarish situations. It isn’t simply that your child will be able to attend the school around the corner from the house you want to buy. Presently several areas of the city have small to long wait lists, EVEN for the child who moved in across the street from the school! Crazy, but true.
Working for several years in Calgary as a professional Destination Service Consultant (Dwellworks), and before obtaining my real estate license, I was required to have a very firm knowledge of this topic, as I was paid to assist corporate families moving to Calgary from elsewhere and they were usually searching not only for a particular community, but definitely a certain school. I had to work to make this puzzle work for them. I summarize some important points and tools that I learned and have used with positive results in my real estate practice:
Find a School Calgary Board of Education (CBE) - type in this link, http://www.cbe.ab.ca/schools/find-a-school/Pages/default.aspx in order to find if the home you are looking to buy is in the walking or busing zone (collectively known as the ‘catchment’ area). You will need the address of the home, name of the community you want to live in, or the name of the school to figure out if it is the right match. HOWEVER, most important, always phone the school to CONFIRM, as the school makes the final decision, as the map on the school website often change. Furthermore, boundaries can be very frustrating, as it isn’t always that you move in to a community and automatically have the right to attend the local school.
Find a School Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) - type in this link, https://www.cssd.ab.ca/School/Pages/default.aspx. I found that the CCSD is more about community boundaries, as opposed to sides or ends of a street. The CCSD offers parallel programs as the CBE, such as French bilingual, learn through the arts, and others.
Private Schools - they are not administered under the CBE nor the CCSD, and so best is to conduct a full google search for private schools in the City of Calgary or ask around for recommendations from friends/relatives/neighbors. There are private schools that focus on academics, have a religious theme, or have some other key characteristic that sets them apart. Just really depends on what you are looking for. Prices vary, as do admission requirements. The private schools don’t offer ESL programs like the CBE and CCSD schools do.
Fraser Institute Schools Ranking and other ranking - all schools in Calgary (and every other city in Canada) is ranked per this well-known ranking system. However, it is to be taken with a grain of salt, as it really focuses on test scores above all else. It doesn’t, for instance, pay much attention to the quality of the band program, or the size of the ESL program in the school. Having said that, perhaps something can be said for the quality of the overall teaching if the ranking is too low or very high. Again, it is another tool that can help in our overall search for the right school. Click on the following link, https://www.fraserinstitute.org/school-performance. The Eight Leaves data analysis company ranks high schools in Alberta each year, based on exam scores, http://www.eightleaves.com/alberta-high-school-rankings.
Other points and considerations before buying a home to fit a school:
- Elementary schools have quite strict class size restrictions, and so even if you move in across the street, your child may have to bus to an alternative school if they have reached the capped size; however, this is not the case for jr high and sr high, as they are more fluid with their enrolment sizes. Always phone the school that you are interested in prior to submitting an offer to make sure that you know where their enrollment levels are at and that you would be ok with being put on a waiting list (sometimes these can be several years long);
- To prove to a school that you live in the catchment, you will need to show either a rental agreement, purchase contract or some other documents to show that your child is entitled to attend the school in question. Always best to contact the school PRIOR to submitting an offer to make sure that you can provide the proof that they require;
- If you know of an ‘open house’ that a school is organizing, do attend, as most CBE and CCSD schools do not offer tours to walk in inquiries. However, you will have more luck with this at private schools. Many open houses for schools are in January or February of the calendar year, but check the website of the school in question;
- If your child requires ESL programming and support, always check with the school that you are interested in attending as not all schools have the same level of ESL support. It can really depend from school to school.
Good luck in navigating this part of the home purchasing puzzle. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or need more information about this topic.
Thank you for reading and sharing.
Have a great day!