Sage Stewart and her mother

Sage Stewart and her mother

Student new to Penticton nearly denied entry to school

But superintendent says policy must be followed to ensure compliance with funding rules and child safety

Just days before the start of the new school year, a recent arrival to Penticton had serious doubts about whether her daughter would actually be in class on the first day.

Marcia Stewart, who relocated here from Saskatchewan in June, said she tried to register seven-year-old Sage this week, but was told by the Okanagan Skaha School District the girl could be not enrolled without an original copy of her birth certificate first being examined by administrative staff.

Unfortunately, the document was misplaced during the family’s move.

Stewart said she ordered a new certificate from the Saskatchewan government, but its arrival date is uncertain. A photocopy of the original was apparently not sufficient for the school board’s purposes.

A few hours after speaking to the Western News on Wednesday, however, Stewart reported a school district administrator had phoned to tell her that the copy would indeed be acceptable for the time being.

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said in a statement that privacy rules prevent her from discussing Stewart’s case.

However, she did explain the district follows the same policy for out-of-province transfers that’s set out by the Ministry of Education for parents enrolling students in kindergarten.

That policy requires a parent to show her child’s birth certificate, immunization record, plus proof of residential address from a document such as a property tax receipt.

“Without proper documentation, the district is not eligible for funding for the student, meaning if (and) when an audit occurs the district will lose funding,” Hyer explained.

“We are not in a financial position where we can provide an education to students who are not funded. More importantly, however, is that without proper documentation we have no way of verifying if the parent is the legal guardian of the child. This is a safety issue for the child, especially in situations with custody issues,” she said.

Administrators do make efforts “to work with the parent to acquire the documentation required,” Hyer added. “We want children in schools, but must follow the legislation that is put in place.”

Stewart thinks the school district should be allowed more leeway in cases like hers.

“I just feel that it’s unacceptable that a child has to pay the price for a system that’s clearly broken,” she said, since her daughter was nearly “denied an education because she doesn’t have a birth certificate through no fault of her own.”