VSB Educational Facilities Review

Vancouver School Board is in the processes of reviewing school facilities and programs with the possible outcome of closing schools. Vancouver CBC Radio carried coverage of this story this morning on the 5:30, 6;30, and 7:30 local news casts. You can listen to the two versions they played.

CBC Local News

According to the Vancouver School Board they are:

faced with some difficult decisions. Declining enrolment is having an impact on the programs and services the district can provide. In addition, operating and maintaining a large inventory of facilities requires significant financial resources.

In order to deliver a range of learning opportunities to the 56,000 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 and adult education programs, the school board must ensure that education dollars are spent wisely.

Students, parents, staff and the public are invited to open houses hosted by the Vancouver School Board and District Parent Advisory Council as part of an Educational Facilities Review. The school board is seeking assistance in making decisions that best reflect the educational needs and values of Vancouver students and families.

Translated materials will be available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish and Punjabi. Interpreters knowledgeable in each of these languages will be assisting at the open houses.

VSB Educational Facilities Review background materials

Open houses will be held on:
Tuesday, May 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Vancouver Technical Secondary School cafeteria
2600 E. Broadway

Wednesday, May 9, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Tupper Secondary School cafeteria
419 E. 24th Ave.

Thursday, May 10, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Magee Secondary School atrium
6360 Maple St.

One thought on “VSB Educational Facilities Review

  1. There are a number of problems with the VSB report that need to be dealt with.

    1) Cyclical enrolment trends: 2006 enrolment is just 500 shy of where we were 12 years ago in 1995, although it went up almost 5,000 in the intervening years and came back down. We can’t be closing & opening schools every time we go through such a cycle, so they need to establish a range of normal variability and discount excess/shortfalls in capacity that fall within that range so that we can focus on real long term trends that require attention — i.e. new demands due to increased densification in Yaletown, out at UBC, etc. They haven’t done that yet.

    2) Mythical empty desks: The key message from VSB Chair Ken Denike is that we currently have 10,000 “empty desks” in Vancouver schools, which is BS. That figure is largely mythical, based on a provincial calculation that says you can fit so many students per square metre of floor space. It’s based on modern building specs, not the more generous proportions of our 100-year old school buildings. You’d have to put kids in the hallways and cram 30 – 40 kids in our large old classrooms to fill all 10,000 spaces, which you’re not allowed to do, due to Bill 33. So they need to write off the proportion of those 10,000 empty desks that are fictitious, so that we can see what is the real space availability. I’d encourage parents and PACs to compare the attached to what you can realistically fit in your own school, given class size limits and the need for extra resource rooms, music room, etc.

    3) Misleading graphs:[see also, VSB Math Lesson] My son and his Grade 7 colleagues could point to the graphs used in the backgrounder and explain how they are designed to exaggerate recent enrolment declines and make the problem seem worse than it is. Despite the unexpectedly steep dip in September 2006, our public school enrolment remains among the most stable in the province — so far we’re still well within the periodic ups and downs, unlike depressed rural areas in the “heartlands” that have shown a clear, steady downward trend. Look at a Google Earth map that shows the natural boundaries for the Lr. Mainland, look at gas prices and energy/global warming trends, and then look at the trend for any major city/gateway in the world and it’s obvious that, barring a major global catastrophe, Vancouver will have no choice but massive densification in coming years.

    4) Re-balancing: In some areas, like our neighbourhood, we have schools within easy walking distance of each other where one is overflowing while the other is losing enrolment. Like Livingsonte and Brock just east of Main (half empty) vs. Wolfe and Fraser just west of Main (overflowing). In some cases, you could easily re-jig the boundaries and/or distribute magnet programs and services that are attracting parents & students to go cross boundary and still keep everyone within safe walking distance of a neighbourhood school. We need to consider such things, where feasible, before even starting to talk about empty spaces.

    5) Unsubstantiated/unlikely projections: No detailed basis is provided for projections, which are questionable in some cases and clearly off base in others. (Example: Brock, Wolfe and Livingstone are all projected to lose significant enrolment by 2015, although the Province has just announced a “massive” redevelopment and densification of the Little Mountain social housing project, which will bring a significant increase in enrolment pressure to these schools). Comments from Denike and fellow trustees like Clarence Hansen indicate an underlying assumption that rising real estate prices are behind declining enrolment. If that were true, our west side schools would be emptying out faster than the east side instead of the other way around, and North Van wouldn’t be losing enrolment to West Van. In fact, rising property values leads inevitably to densification, as single family homes become increasingly unaffordable. Rezoning is already underway on parts of the east side, shifting single family lots across large tracts to duplex zoning, which could easily double enrolment pressures in coming years. Along arteries like Fraser and Main, the old single family homes are being replaced by 3 – 4 story apartment condos, and that’s happening without the backlash slowing development pressures in Kitsilano, for example. Mayor Sullivan’s eco-density plans will only encourage more of this, leading to new pressures on schools that may currently be half full.

    …so, basically, the message I’d give is that they’re blowing the problem out of all proportion (to what end we can only guess) and that they need to come back with a more balanced presentation of the facts if they want to engage parents in an informed and useful discussion.

    The other key issue of course is that this process provides both the VSB and the Province with a nice excuse to do nothing about seismic upgrading for another year or two.


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