The School System — what you need to know

October 19, 2020 | Read Time: 4 Min. | Uncategorized

Many immigrants move to Canada seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children. The school system in Alberta and Canada may be different from the newcomer’s home country and might seem confusing. In this post, you will find basic and simplified information on the school system in Canada and in Calgary.

Basics of Schools in Canada

School starts at age 5 and runs to age 18 or 20. Most schools begin early September and end late June (Regular or Traditional Calendar). Some schools start mid-August and run till mid-May. In Calgary, it’s called a Modified or Year-Round Calendar. Check your child’s school for the right information at the start and at the end of the school year. There are three main breaks during the school year: Summer break (July and August); Christmas break (Mid till the end of December ) and Spring break (late March or early April). There are many non-instruction days or professional development days throughout the school year during which students stay at home.

Schools typically run from Monday to Friday. Elementary schools usually start at 8:00 am or 8:30 am and finish at 2:30 pm or 3:00 pm. There are usually 15-minute breaks and lunchtime. Many schools have short/half-a-day Fridays. Most high schools start at 9:00 AM and finish at 3:30 PM.

Grade Structure

Schools in Canada have different grade levels. In Alberta, the following grade structure is used:

  • Elementary: Kindergarten-Grade 6
  • Junior High School: Grades 7-9
  • High School: Grades 10-12

Types of Schools in Alberta

  • Public: Majority of students in Alberta attend public schools which are funded by the provincial government. Students who are legal residents of Alberta attend school for free. However, there are some school fees that should be paid annually. These cover the cost of things that are not funded by the Alberta government such as lunch supervision, extra-curricular activities and transportation. In Calgary, the public school board is called the Calgary Board of Education (CBE).
  • Private: Few students choose to attend private schools. The government of Alberta regulates private schools and have specific criteria for these schools. For further information, please check the link here
  • Catholic Education: In Alberta, catholic schools are public schools and are funded by the provincial government. In Calgary, the Catholic school board is called the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD).
  • Alternative Programs: In Alberta, there are many programs that students can join from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Below is a table of some of the alternative program options offered in Calgary.
French Immersion K-12Allows students to be fluent in French. Does not require parents to know French
Spanish Bilingual K-12Introduces basic Spanish to students
Chinese Bilingual K-9Provides students with basic skills to learn Chinese (Mandarin)
German Bilingual K-6Provides students with basic skills to learn German language
Traditional Learning Centres (TLC) K-9Follow a traditional teaching philosophy. Students learn in a highly structured environment. They must wear uniforms in the classrooms. Program is only offered through the CBE
All-Girls School 4-9Alice Jamieson All Girls’ Academy at Stanley Jones School
All Boys K-6All Boys Program at Sir James Lougheed School
Science K-9Science Program
Gifted students GATE K-12GATE Programs
  • Home Schooling: Home education is a parent-directed approach to educating a student in Grades 1 to 12 at home. For more information, please check this link.

School Fees

  • Public schools are free in Canada and in Alberta, but there may be minimal student fees. Check your child’s school or online for fees. If you are unable to pay fees, discuss with the school ways to waive or reduce fees.
  • Textbooks are provided by the school for free. They must be returned at the end of the semester or the school year.

Dress Codes

  • Some schools have a dress code that describes what students may wear to school. Check your child’s school for dress code.
  • Some schools in Calgary (TLC, Girls school) require uniforms.

Student Transportation Services

  • Students can walk to school if they live less 2 Km
  • CBE students who live further than 2.4 km away from their designated community school, should pay transportation fees. For more information, check this link here.
  • CSSD students who live further than 1.8 km away from their designated community school, should pay transportation fees. For more information, check this link here.

Absence from School

  • Children are required to attend school every day; you should inform the school if your child is absent for health or personal reasons.
  • If your child is going to be out of school for a long time, you should inform the teacher ahead of time.