A new family moves to Calgary and innocently asks, “What are the best schools in the city and what is available to purchase within walking distance.” The answer is a long one and it usually starts with ‘It depends….”

Schools. One of the most important criteria for some families when choosing a community or property to call home.

Sometimes it is parents looking for a specific program or philosophy and sometimes it is all about the logistics of getting our children to school and home safely while still working or attending to our other activities.

It used to be easier I am told. Children in a community would go to the school in that community, often within walking distance. Some communities had before and after school care. It’s not that easy now.

In some communities the choice to attend the local designated school is thwarted by full enrollments, alternate school assignments, bus schedules and lotteries for school space. Parents are scrambling to find before and after school care or changing their plans regarding work and availability.

Some inner city locations have low enrollments while outlying areas are bursting at the seams. The current baby boom, Calgary’s large growth numbers, funding and timeliness of construction of new infrastructure all contribute. Affordability of housing, access to backyards and playgrounds, parks and amenities fuels the move within the city as well.

Recently the province announced more schools in 2013 with $1.4B allocated over 3 years to school capital projects. I’ll leave the ‘how can you build that many schools so fast given the shortage of folks to build them’ to someone else and instead say, “That’s great. What’s the plan for the when and where?”

Calgary Board of Education schools and Calgary Catholic schools also offer french immersion, language schools and specialized programs on top of everything else. Charter schools enter the mix providing unique learning opportunities geared towards various streams including science, arts, girls only, academics, inquiry based and others. Charter schools are unique to Alberta and the waitlists are huge so they must be doing something right. On top of that are the private schools adding another layer of option.

So as you are looking at new homes, you need to remember that just because you see a school doesn’t mean your children can attend. It’s kinda nutty given the perceived options. Research is critical if schools are a top priority.

I should have listened to my neighbour and enrolled my kids when they were born.