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.