By Jill Philipchuk, Principal UHS
Last night (June 25, 2008) at a special meeting of the Board, a motion was passed to renovate the NRC building into a new secondary school by 2011. This renovation would occur once an agreement with the Ministry is finalized to do a land transfer of the Anne Hebert site to the Francophone School District. Queen Elizabeth Annex will remain open but will become a single track primary French Immersion school. There are also other details that are part of the motion – details will be posted on the VSB website.
But – the bottom line – is that I feel confident that we will have a new school.
Several trustees commended our parents and our students for their presentations at past meetings – particularly the last one. They also commented several times about the need to try as hard as possible to expedite the time line.
So — thank you to all of the parents who worked so hard to show the trustees the need for a new school. Your time and effort are much appreciated. Mark Dale (VSB Director of Planning and Facilities) said at the meeting last night that feasibility studies will begin immediately. I expect that over the next few months parents, staff and students will be asked for input so that the new school will best meet our needs.
Thank you to all of you!
The 2007-08 school year is drawing to a close. Exams are almost over, lockers are cleaned out, students are looking toward the summer activities, parents are thinking about what to do, and teachers are almost done for this year.
It’s been an eventful year in Vancouver with the facilities review we have experienced. It’s been a sobering experience. We started with a shocking plan to close a school. The District Management Team and trustees said this was the only way to solve the problem we were facing. But then after a strong fight-back from QEA parents saying no combined with a slow to respond but eventually equally strong push back from U Hill parents everythign seemed to change. Now we are told that the annex doens’t have to be sold, a secret special solution is on the way, and U Hill schools will be rebuilt (though they are so far into the future that many of us felt that it’s a deal that amounts to the status quo).
It will be nice to take a break from all of this.
My best wishes for a well deserved break to all of the people on the front lines who really make a difference -to the teachers, the support staff, the administrators. Have a great summer!
Guest commentary by Eric Mazzi, QEA Parent
First I want to summarize why this is a crisis. Three U-Hill students testified last week to Trustees about the atrocious learning conditions (e.g. sitting on dirty floors, denied opportunities for science classes, etc.). Particularly poignant to me were the young women students at U-Hill who testified in March that they sometimes must eat lunch in the washrooms. Yet, arguably, these are the lucky students. 100’s of other Kindergarten-to-12 students are “shipped out” in busses and cars to schools 10km or more away because they have no neighborhood school, and thus no choice to walk or bicycle. These students not only miss out on before-/after-school educational opportunities, research clearly demonstrates they are at risk for an unhealthy lifestyle and premature mortality through increased risk of obesity (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.). Research even shows students who walk to school have stronger social networks with more friends and acquaintances, therefore those denied neighborhood schools are literally denied friendships. These hardships and risk factors have been involuntarily imposed on UBC students for 8 years, and will continue until new schools are built.
Since the formal adoption of UBC’s CCP in 2000, the need for schools has been urgent but the province has repeatedly denied funding. The past cannot be undone, but it seems clear the way forward is to get the new UBC schools built ASAP. However, VSB’s current public proposal is to conduct design and planning for the new secondary (at old NRC) for 1 year, with occupancy January 1, 2011. Design and planning for the new elementary school is not planned to begin until January, 2010, with occupancy beginning September, 2012. Quite frankly, I worry that because VSB facility planning resources are (to quote Chris Kelly) “flat out,” that VSB may have difficulty even delivering on their proposed schedule.
So my simple recommendation made to VSB is that UBC Properties Trust be hired to manage the design and construction of the new secondary school. With their proven track record of moving construction forward, I believe the new secondary school could be occupied September 1, 2009. If an arrangement can be made to at least authorize funds for design & planning in the next couple weeks, the first public consultation for the new school design could and should occur in mid-September. Of course UBCPT should be paid management fees, but it seems very likely they could deliver net cost savings through economies of scale and sheer volume of experience managing construction at UBC. I would go so far as to recommend UBCPT manage design and construction of the new elementary school as well, but I anticipate some reluctance because that site is not on university land.
In response to my question as to what he would do to make sure that all students receive fair and equitable access t proper schools, Mike Lombardi (who is running for a Vision Vancouver Nomination) had this to say:
Facebook | VSB Facilities Review: Flawed and Unconvincing
As a school trustee I would advocate for changes to the provincial funding policies. As you know, provincial funding policies were changed by the BC Liberal government, taking away the base amount for a school regardless of size. This change in policy, along with underfunding of education, has created a climate for boards of education to look to cutting costs by closing schools and consolidating into larger schools as a matter of economy of scale. These policies ignore other social and environmental costs that should be factored into sound public policy.
You know that the government has put pressure on the VSB to close schools and sell property in order to build new schools because of population shifts in the district. The minister has denied this, but the ministry policy of facilities explicitly states this.
The government has demanded 110% of capacity in secondary schools in a district before it will permit the building of a new school in a new population area. This has led to districts “reconfiguring” schools in order to produce the full schools in the district as a whole that would allow for the building of a new school.
I would work with other supportive trustees, parents, partner groups, and community organizations to lobby for changes to the existing guidelines.
Facebook | Mike Lombardi for Vancouver Board of Education
Mike Lombardi will be seeking a Vision Vancouver nomination for the Vancouver Board of Education.
The VSB’s educational facilities review (EFR) includes the suggestion that a transfer of property from the school board to the province will lead to new schools at UBC sometime in the next 4-5 years.
Rumours abound about what is happening. In emails sent to U Hill parents trustees, including Al Blakey, Ken Denike, and Sharron Gregson, have implied -without actually stating outright- that big things are around the corner. There has been a suggestion, which first arrived at a VSB committee II meeting just under two weeks ago that the Premier wants to use three (or four) VSB schools for new early learning centres. It seems that this might have something to do with the rebuilding of UBC schools.
We may well be witness to a PR event June 25 as opposed to a normal school board meeting that is to vote on the EFR.
The Report Card
A summary of blog entries by the Vancouver Sun’s education reporter.
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Successful lobbying on Vancouver’s westside
Vancouver school trustees are crediting parents – who lobbied long and hard on behalf of their schools – with creating the conditions that will allow them to:
– Lift the threat of closure from Queen Elizabeth annex.
– Open a new elementary school for the many children now being bussed from UBC endowment lands to westside schools.
– Move the crowded University Hill secondary to a larger space on the UBC campus.
– Complete seismic upgrades for existing schools in the UBC-Dunbar area.
– Expand French immersion
Parents’ lobbying saves school from closure
New plan for west-side schools to leave Queen Elizabeth annex open
Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008
VANCOUVER – Vancouver school trustees are crediting months of intense lobbying by parents for a new plan for west-side schools that will save Queen Elizabeth annex from closure.
Details of the plan have not yet been released to the public.
Click here to listen. This recording provides interested parties with a full version of the events. Additional materials are published in previous comments and in an article published by the Vancouver Courier.
QE annex may dodge the wrecking ball. UBC Schools Delayed
Recommendations spark mixed reactions
Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier
Published: Friday, June 13, 2008
Reaction was mixed to school board recommendations unveiled Wednesday night that would save a West Side school from closure, while promising new schools near UBC.
The recommendations are part of a final report on the first phase of the district’s educational facilities review, which targets the Dunbar area.
Initial recommendations proposed shutting down Queen Elizabeth annex and selling the land to pay for renovations at UBC’s National Research Council building, which would be turned into a high school. University Hill secondary would then be modernized and converted into an elementary.