School problem Vancouver-wide

School problem Vancouver-wide

Valerie Hamilton critiques opponents of selling off schools.Friday, January 18, 2008

To the editor:

Re: “Dunbar first up for VSB scrutiny,” Jan. 16.

It is a shame that Adlai Fisher thinks that closing Queen Elizabeth Annex should have nothing to do with a new school at UBC. The Vancouver School Board is facing a dilemma right now.

Parents at UBC, Yaletown and Fraserlands do not have the luxury of sending their students to the neighbourhood school. The Ministry of Education will not allow any new schools to open as long as there are so many empty seats in other Vancouver schools.

None of this should be coming as a surprise. I was at a meeting at UHill secondary several years ago when the National Research Council building was suggested as a site for a new school.

Parents cannot look at their schools in isolation. They are part of the whole problem in Vancouver and should try to be creative and helpful in coming up with solutions instead of lashing out at the VSB before the public meetings have even begun.

Valerie L. Hamilton,


Professor Toope Replies

Dear Prof. Menzies:

Thank you for your email in which you express concern about upcoming decisions of the Trustees of the Vancouver School Board in relation to various schools on the west side of Vancouver. I have read the consultation document of the VSB. First, let me be clear that UBC will not be directly involved in the decisions to be taken by the VSB. As you indicate, there is clearly a need for a new elementary school on or near the UBC campus. The demographic data in the VSB report is strong on that point. How the VSB wishes to address the issue is something with which the university would not wish to interfere. UBC’s offer to turn over the old NRC building to the VSB is merely meant to be facilitative, nothing more. I have asked that our VP External, Legal and Community Relations follow the VSB discussions on behalf of the university. It would be best for you to communicate with him directly. Best wishes for all your work,

Stephen J.Toope
President and Vice-Chancellor
University of British Columbia

6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T1Z2
Tel: 604 8228300
Fax 604 822 5055

Open Letter to Prof. Stephen Toope, UBC President

Dear Professor Toope,

I am writing to you in your capacity as the President of the University and also as a fellow parent concerned about the wellbeing of all students to request an opportunity for a representative group of parents from campus and nearby schools to meet with you to discuss the role that UBC might play in improving the educational opportunities for all of our children.

As you may be aware, last week (January 11, 2008) the Vancouver Board of Education released what they call Phase One of their Educational Facilities Review. This review contains proposals that will meet concerns that we, as parents and community members living in this area have long asked for -a renewed and expanded high school and an additional elementary school- all required to meet the rapid growth in school aged children that have resulted due to UBC’s development of housing. However, also included in this plan is the proposal to close a very effective and successful elementary school annex that has been lauded many times in the past for it’s amazing program and success.

This past Saturday, representatives from the Parent Advisory Councils of each of the affected schools (U Hill Elementary, U Hill Secondary, Jules Quesnel, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth Annex, Queen Mary, and Lord Byng Secondary) met to discuss our hopes and concerns as parents as related to the proposal.

We all recognize and understand the pressing need for improvements in schools at UBC. We also all appreciate that UBC, through it’s private development company, UBC Properties Trust, has made a commitment to offer the former NRC Building, provide some additional infrastructure, and has completed some initial preparation work as part of their contribution. Nonetheless, many of us were seriously concerned that only solution that seems to be available is the selling off of a highly effective neighbourhood school.

We are certain that with your consideration, with the support of development companies who are benefiting from the development of UBC lands, and with the commitment of parents such as those who met together this past Saturday, that we can find a solution that does not require the sacrifice of an excellent community school.

We look forward to hearing from you and trust that despite the business of your position that you can find a time to meet with us and discus a creative alternative to the sacrifice of Queen Elizabeth Annex.

With warm regards,

Charles Menzies
Member of U. Hill Secondary PAC and executive member of the Vancouver District Parents Advisory Council.

PAC reps from QEA, QE, QM, JQ, LB, U Hill Sec, U Hill Elem,
DPAC Chair, Julianne Doctor
VSB, Chris Kelly
UNA, Mike Feeley, Associate Chair

VSB Advocates selling school to pay for needed new school

The Vancouver Board of Education publicly unveiled plans that had been circulating quieting in house since at lease December 18th, 2007. The Education Facilities Review report outlines plans to build a new secondary school at UBC using a former research building (the NRC Building at 16th and East Mall) and funds from from the sale of Queen Elizabeth Annex. The proposal also includes plans for seismic mitigation at three nearby elementary schools, the addition of a new elementary school at UBC, and the expansion of the current area French Immersion program.
Politically, the review manages to do a number of critical things. First, it answers a long standing demand from west Point Grey/UBC to address school growth needs, it avoids potentially controversial issues surrounding schools with declining enrolment in the northeast and center areas of the Vancouver.

The report itself was publicly released Thursday, January 10th at 5:30 pm. The day before closed door meetings were held with education partner groups (in the morning) and then with the affected schools ( in the afternoon). Meetings with administrators will be held Thursday morning and the trustees were briefed in a closed door meeting Tuesday evening.

My personal assessment is that the plan meets the demands that many of the people living in my community here in the growing UBC area have been calling for. But, as with any such plan of this magnitude, there are many details that have not been thought out and some there are some clear problems.

The most pressing concern is the impact of closing and selling Queen Elizabeth Annex (conservatively estimated to be worth 25 million dollars). Is this really the right thing to do? To close an excellent, functioning school and then selling it? What role should UBC play in funding the new school, what about the developers who are making a rich profit developing housing at UBC, shouldn’t they be expected to make a significant contribution?

While the plan, in general makes sense, there are many who will agree , I think that the money needs to be found elsewhere.