U Hill Network of Schools to be Rebuilt -Update

The University Hill area school issue has been developing these past few days. As per the VSB announcement in the last week of classes in December they are planning to present a business plan to the ministry of education by the end of January 30th with the hopes of receiving approval to begin a set of construction/conversion projects this summer.

There are a number of hurdles in between, not the least of which will be the provincial election. I think that it would be a fair comment that most, if not all, of the parents and community members connected to our two area schools are hoping beyond hope that the entire project goes through with provincial approvals without a hitch. To date there have been a series of meetings for parents, staff, and community. Last week both Parent Advisory groups (elementary and secondary) held meetings with parents to hear about the plan details. At the Secondary PAC we passed a motion in support of the proposal (full text of motion can be found here. The one major concern raised was with the transition period during which our only athletic field will be turned into a construction site and potential safety issues will emerge. Our motion passed unanimously to support the plan that will see two K-5 primary schools (350=38- student each), one 6-8 middle school (400-45- students) and a 9-12 secondary school (800-850 students). The completion date for the new 6-8 school (built on the field at the current high school) and the new 9-12 school (the reconverted NRC Building) is March 2011. The second K-5 school would be completed within a year and a half of that date, fall 2012. This should be able to handle the current students living in the university hill area with some potential for modest growth. (The housing slowdown will actually help relieve some of the pressure as it is rumored that close to
400 units of housing are sitting on the real estate listing and not moving in our area).

On Monday evening a community meeting was held at the Old Barn Community Centre in Hawthorn Place at UBC. About 50 or so people were there and the general consensus seemed to be that the VSB needs to get on with it. There were construction and design questions related to traffic issues at the current high school but by and large the tone of the meeting was we have waited and waited, let’s not wait any longer -build the schools!

It would seem that all that stands between our community and proper schools is provincial government approval. UBC and VSB have been working out some exciting and interesting educational collaborations, the financial side seems only to need the ministry of end’s contribution and things are up and running. However, as the neighbourhoods of learning debacle shows there will be many who will look at any potential approval as Gordon Campbell handing out political payoffs to his constituents. We hope that this is not the case. For those of us on the ground and who have been involved with the university schools and these issues for almost a decade will can say quite clearly that this is a needed project and while partisan politics are inevitable ingredient in any BC Education story this is one example in which one would hope that approval comes in spite of the politics!

More information about the plan itself can be found here, here, and here.

Some details that we still don’t have include the business plan that is to be submitted to the provincial government; it is not clear whether or not it will be made public (to be honest, I’m not sure of the standard procedure on this). We would be interested in seeing the document, but at any rate staff (including Chris Kelly and Mark Dale of the VSB) assured us at the Jan. 12th meeting that they will not wait to hear back from the province but will beginning the design planning ASAP. There is already an architect involved and thus it is likely that building plans are at some reasonable stage of

We all look forward to a smooth approval and transition to an exciting rebuilt university hill network of schools for our children.