Time to Rebuild Our Schools – Letter to the Media

In the educational facilities review discussion ongoing in Vancouver it’s a shame that the discussion is being turned from educational needs of our children to a focus on UBC’s role as developer. UBC is cast as in someway being negligent by creating much needed and relatively affordable places for people to live. In other parts of the city such actions are lauded. But not west of Blanca. UBC has developed housing that reduces commuting, ‘eco-densifies’ the neighbourhood, and provides important social amenities to community members (our community is rich and diverse. We are students, families, new immigrants, UBC employees, and many other people who find living in a sustainable environment a plus). As with any large institution there are lots of things to complain about -however, in terms of working toward schools west of Blanca, UBC has been doing as much or more than any other developer in the lower mainland. We might productively ask why developers are not obliged to do more and pay for the social impacts that their developments cause, but to place all of that responsibility upon UBC is to allow the VSB and the provincial government to evade their responsibilities.

Last year the VSB submitted a proposal, developed by UBC Properties Trust, to the provincial government. Apparently the plan involved UBCPT financing the renovation and construction costs for a rebuilt high school west of Blanca. The lease agreement between UBC and VSB would have allowed VSB to pay back these costs amortized over 25 or 30 years. The provincial government is said to have rejected that arrangement.

It’s too bad that our provincial government refused to accept an arrangement that would have solved our school needs over a year ago. If they’d picked up the ball we wouldn’t be in the current crisis.

The situation for the 1,500 school aged and 680 preschool children living west of Blanca is serious. The two neighbourhood schools can only take in about 1100 of the children living here. Is it the fault of these children that the adults haven’t done anything for close to ten years? Should these children be made to pay the price of the inaction of adults? While adults bicker and call for moratoriums on the rebuilding of our schools hundreds of children -who are part of the Vancouver School District- are being deprived of their neighbourhood school.

The VSB plan is not perfect, but it is a plan that will put children into schools in their community. It will disrupt a few dozen children whose school is to be closed. This is never a happy thing to do. With care and good will any disruption can be minimized. We can always hope and pray for a miracle that will meet the needs of the many and the desires of the few. But, in the meantime it is time that we stopped blaming and started building.

Our kids deserve that.

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