Jack Ralph, 17, attended high school in the North Vancouver school district for four years, until last Christmas, when Jack's stepfather took a temporary work contract in the U.K. Jack enrolled in a private school in London, but soon found the work challenging - particularly as he suffers from dyslexia.
Penny James, Jack's mother, said the family decided that Jack should return to North Vancouver to finish his final year of schooling among familiar teachers and friends.
But that's proved much more complicated than the family imagined, thanks to provincial regulations that require a parent or legal guardian to also be a resident of B.C. as long as a child is attending school.
James said until recently, the family never considered that there would be a problem registering Jack - who is a Canadian citizen, and who has been staying with friends for several months - back in his old high school.
"We ordinarily reside here," she said. "We didn't emigrate."
But the family was recently told that a parent or guardian must also be physically living in the province before Jack's enrolment can be considered.
The only options left to the family now are to either register Jack as a fee-paying foreign student, with an approved homestay residence, or to get legal guardianship transferred to James' sister through the courts.
The whole process has been far more complicated than they first imagined, said James, who recently flew from England to try to sort out the bureaucratic mess.
Currently the applications to change Jack's guardianship are in the hands of lawyers.
John Lewis, superintendent of schools for North Vancouver, said the family's situation is unusual. But the School Act requires a parent or guardian of any students under 19 to have B.C. residency, he said.
Rules are in place to ensure the safety of students he said - adding decisions from consent to go on field trips to medical emergencies all require a parent or guardian's permission. "One of our prime concerns is the ongoing safety and supervision of the child," he said.
Rules around residency have also been tightened by the province in response to some attempts by families of international students to claim B.C. residency, he added.
Lewis said while the situation of James and her son is unusual, it's quite common for family moves to have an impact on a students' ability to register in certain schools - even within the school district.
"I think it is important for people to always be considering the decisions they are making as a family - and the implications," he said.
James, meanwhile, is just hoping to get the issue sorted out before Jack misses too much of the school year. Providing it works out, "He's going to have to catch up on his work," she said. But she added, it'll be worth it to see Jack "graduating with all his friends."
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