King David High School has a wait pool for its Grade 8 program. (photo from facebook.com/kdhsvancouver)
King David High School has more applicants for Grade 8 this fall than they have spaces available, and some parents are upset with the way the school is handling the matter.
On Jan. 28, parents of 52 potential Grade 8 students received a message that their children had been accepted – and that $1,000 was required by Jan. 31 to confirm acceptance.
“The normal course is that King David and the independent and mini schools all release about the same time their acceptance letters,” said a parent whose child was accepted. “They’ll send out the first acceptance letters and then parents will either accept or not and then they’ll send out the second set a day or two later. That way they don’t really have a wait list and the process is relatively painless and takes place over a few days.”
The parent requested anonymity for fear that speaking out could affect their child’s future at the school and the Independent agreed to withhold the name.
“What King David has done suddenly is say we’re moving our process up about a month and to hold that spot now you need another thousand dollars, nonrefundable,” the parent said. The $1,000 deposit is on top of a $500 application fee, which increased this year from $100. Many families apply to more than one school, some of them independent and some of them Vancouver School Board specialty schools, such as mini schools, international baccalaureate or outdoor education programs. Those schools mostly send out acceptance letters in February.
“If they want to fundraise, that’s one thing,” said the parent. “But this seems to be a negative option fundraising scheme. They didn’t tell the families that they were going to do this when they applied originally and gave their deposit of $500. They didn’t tell them they were going to change the rules.”
But Russ Klein, King David’s head of school, said the intention was to alleviate stress for the families with children who are not among the 52 who received acceptance letters. He contests the idea that the $1,000 is to “hold the position.”
“We are not thinking of it as holding,” he said. “We’re thinking of it as accepting.”
He recognizes that many families hedge their bets by applying to several schools.
“They are frustrated, which I can understand, because they’re going to need to pay a deposit. That’s where they’re using the language ‘hold the spot.’ But we have families out there who are on our wait pool who are desperate to get into King David because they are not applying anywhere else. They are very frustrated at some of their peers who are holding spots that they don’t want,” said Klein. “We’re not their first choice. They’d rather get into another school and we don’t judge that. We’d just like the students who would like to be here to get the opportunity to be here.”
The school is using the term “wait pool” as opposed to “wait list” because it does not reflect an order.
“What schools are really trying to do is pick the best cohort for their group,” he said. “If, for example, a male student leaves and you’re trying to balance by gender, then we would try to get another male student in.” A wait pool implies that learning needs, particular talents and other factors that applicants bring to the cohort are weighed, rather than ranking applicants numerically.
Klein acknowledged that the process is new and has been difficult, because the school has never had so many applicants, a factor due simply to the coincidence of a population bubble in the community. Looking at this year’s Grade 6 classes at Jewish elementary schools and in the community, he said, King David expects far fewer Grade 8 applications next year. This year’s Grade 8 cohort has just 35 students.
“This is our first time through this type of challenge and we are learning a lot,” he said. The school has 26 regular Grade 8 positions and 26 accelerated positions, in which Grade 8 students complete Math 8, Science 8, Math 9 and Science 9 in a single year.
The school isn’t releasing exact numbers of how many students are in the wait pool, saying only that it is “more than 10.”
In all, the school now has well over 200 students, said Klein, and, while that presents growing pains, he hopes the demand indicates to the community that the school is successful, and said KDHS may seek to expand in the future.