This page includes Frequently Asked Questions relevant to International Families. This includes the students who are:

  • accompanying a parent with a Study Permit or Work Permit
  • in Canada as Refugee Claimants
  • in application for Permanent Residence or Canadian Citizenship

For FAQs related to fee-paying International Students visit our International Student FAQs.


Requirements for Fee-Exempt Status

I have an Open Work Permit or my spouse has an Open Work Permit. Can we use this document?

Parents with a Study Permit

If you are an International Student in Waterloo Region with children accompanying you, your children may be eligible as fee-exempt students. Please read Immigration Status Requirements for International Families.

In this case we will admit your child(ren) based on the primary permit holder, which in this case would be the Study Permit. 

Parents with a Post-Graduate or other Open Work Permit

If your Open Work Permit is your family’s primary immigration document, then your children are eligible to apply as fee-exempt students based on this Open Work Permit. This is typically the case for parents with a Post-Graduate Work Permit.



English as a Second Language (ESL)

My child has strong English skills. Do they need an English Assessment?

Our English language assessment helps us to to better understand our new students.

The information learned through the assessment helps us choose appropriate programs and courses for the student to help ensure academic success. Here is some of what happens during an assessment:

  • The assessor gathers information about the personal history and academic background of the student
  • The student’s English and Math skills are assessed
  • We identify English and Math proficiency levels, recommend appropriate programming and prepare a report for the school

International Students

All fee-paying International Students are required to complete our English Language and Math Skills Assessment before registering at school.

International Families – Secondary Level

Most secondary students entering secondary school through International Admissions will complete an English Language and Math Skills Assessments.

We will consider an exception if one of the following applies:

  • The student was born in a country in which English is the first language AND English is the student’s first language at home; or
  • The student has completed an ESL program at another public school board in Ontario and has transcripts showing which courses they have completed; or

International Families – Kindergarten and Elementary Levels

Kindergarten and Elementary students born in a country in which English is not the first language will be assessed after registering at their school.



School and Grade Placement

What school will my child attend?

Our school system is boundary-based. This means that your child’s school is decided by their home address. Each school has a boundary area, and if you live within that area your child will attend that school.

Many International Students attend our English as a Second Language (ESL) program.  A student’s ESL level is independent of grade level. The students English language level does not affect what grade they will be placed into.  The ESL program helps to ensure that students improve their English language skills and achieve academic success. ESL is offered at all elementary schools and at 4 of our secondary schools: Eastwood Collegiate, Forest Heights Collegiate, Galt Collegiate Institute and Waterloo Collegiate Institute.

Secondary Students born outside of Canada will complete an English Language Skills Assessment before finalizing their school placement and registering at the school level. To see which school is designated to any address, please visit the Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region website.

  • Click on “Which School do I Attend”
  • Enter the home address
  • Choose Waterloo Region District School Board
  • For Elementary (JK to grade 8) students, choose the grade level (for example: “3”)
  • For Secondary (grade 9-12) students:
    • Choose the grade (example: “10”) for the home school school
    • Choose the number followed by an E (example: “10E”) for the ESL School.
I want my child to go to a good school. Which school do you recommend?

The school placement of your child will be determined by your home address in Waterloo Region.

Our public education system provides the same curriculum at each of our 121 schools. Each school receives equal funding and program support from the board.

The WRDSB does not provide any student information or school information to organizations that rank schools.

What grade will my child attend?

The Ontario Ministry of Education directs enrolment using Age Appropriate Grade Placement. This means that a student’s grade placement is determined by their year of birth.

Each year we admit hundreds of students who have recently moved into Canada. An increase or decrease in grade level based is not uncommon.

Elementary students born in any given year will be in the same grade level.

Secondary students can take courses at grade levels other than their assigned grade. For example, a Grade 10 student could take Grade 9 or Grade 11 courses. However, course selection is done with help from the Guidance Counselor.

Please note: grade placement is not determined by a student’s academic achievement, English language level, grade level in a previous school system, or the month in which they were born.

Grade Placement for 2020-2021 School Year

Year of Birth Grade
2016 Junior Kindergarten
2015 Senior Kindergarten
Year of Birth Grade
2014 1
2013 2
2012 3
2011 4
2010 5
2009 6
2008 7
2007 8
Secondary (High School)
Year of Birth Grade
2006 9
2005 10
2004 11
2003 12
2002 or earlier Contact us


What happens if I move after my child has started school?

If you will be moving from one address in Waterloo Region to another after your child has started school, please talk to the office at the current school. Your child will need to move to the appropriate school according to your new address, if outside of the boundary of the current school.

There is no need to inform the International Admissions Office. Your child’s Letter of Admission can be used at a new school if the following conditions are met:

    • The Letter of Admission has not expired
    • The student has not left our school board and then returned
    • You can provide proof of address for the new address



Will there be a school bus for my child and is there a fee for this?

Eligibility for transportation assistance is determined by the distance between your home and the school. There is no fee for transportation. For more details, please talk to the staff at your child’s school after you register them.

To see if your child is eligible for transportation assistance visit Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region:

  • Click on “Which School do I Attend”
  • Enter the home address
  • Choose Waterloo Region District School Board
  • For Elementary (JK to grade 8) students, choose the grade level (for example: “3”)
  • For Secondary (grade 9-12) students:
    • Choose “ESL” as the grade to see the ESL school
    • Choose the grade (example: “10”) for the home school / non-ESL school
  • Click “View Transportation Eligibility” under the school information

If eligible, elementary students (kindergarten to grade 8) will receive a school bus.

If eligible, secondary students (grade 9-12) will need to wait until registration at the school to hear if they will receive a Grand River Transit bus pass or a school bus. This depends on their school and their home address.


The walking distances seem to be quite far for small children. Do you provide a bus in winter?

An average Kindergarten student can walk 1 kilometre in 10 minutes. Stamina for walking improves quickly with daily practice.

Often, small children have a harder time sitting still than they do moving for that amount of time. In fact, 20 minutes of physical activity at the beginning of the day can boost metabolism, increase mental focus for up to four hours, and help your child sleep better at night.

In Canada, we face some unique weather issues. But school children all across Canada spend 15-50 minutes outside at a time for recess and must be dressed appropriately to take advantage of that time for fresh air, physical activity, and open spaces.

If they are equipped for the walk to school, they will also be equipped for that outdoor recess time. Transportation arrangements are based on the distance from a student’s home to the school and are determined upon enrolment. Additional buses are not provided for the winter season.