Here’s why you should care about the Vancouver School Board Long-Range Facilities Plan - whether you have kids in school, or not: A message from the OneCity Schools Caucus
The Long-Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) was recently released by the Vancouver School Board. It's the first piece of information released about the VSB's plans for exploring school consolidation and closures. There are 28 schools on the list - 6 secondary, and 22 elementary. Some are on the list because they might be closed; others are on the list because they might become "consolidation sites" - bureaucratic speak for schools that might grow to host displaced students.
It's no surprise that Vancouver's population of school age kids is shrinking. It's hard to imagine how anyone can afford to raise kids here. But, it's not shrinking as quickly as the LRFP would have you believe - and not as many schools are near-vacant as it would have you believe. Furthermore, the decline is (mostly) spread across the city.
The decisions following the LRFP will happen this Spring. We need people around this city to mobilize and speak out, and we hope you’ll join us. Right now, we have some major concerns with some of its content:
We don't like the way that the VSB assesses how much school space is empty. Right now, only classrooms count. That means that rooms used by resource teachers, music classes, computer labs, Resource teachers, and arts spaces don't "count" as occupied. A school that educates the whole child needs spaces for play, creativity, performance, music, and special supports. In our schools, this so-called "empty" space is being used for educating all kids in the school. We need a better way of assessing whether a school is underutilized.
We're concerned about the plans for these schools, should they be closed. In schools where there is legitimate empty space, we’d like to see more childcare centres, community gathering spaces, and seniors centres - or even affordable housing. The VSB should never sell off land. Right now, thousands of children who live in or near the downtown core won't be able attend their neighbourhood schools. The VSB used to own land in and near downtown that it sold. We'll never get it back - and generations of kids will suffer from long commutes and lack of community.
The schools on the closure list are disproportionately East Vancouver schools. Many are populated by our most vulnerable neighbours. For many of these families - they are new families, working hard to make ends meet, caregiving for multiple generations, struggling to get by, depending on income assistance- the neighbourhood school is a safe place and the centre of the community. School closure, and the dispersal of teachers, support workers, food programs, after school care, and other supports will be devastating for many of these families.
We wish we could end this article with more direction on how you can speak out. Regrettably, the VSB has not yet scheduled any community consultation on this process. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to begin - starting this week.
The VSB Facilities Committee meeting will hear from delegations on Wednesday March 6 at 6pm. It’s too late to sign up, but you can come and listen. The meeting is at the VSB offices on Broadway and Fir.
The District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) has scheduled a Q & A session (for parents and guardians of currently enrolled students) with VSB staff on March 7 at 6.00pm. You can come and listen, hear other parents and kids speak, ask questions. There’s also an online survey if you don’t have time to attend the meetings.
Watch the VSB site (vsb.bc.ca) for more opportunities to speak up.
- Write to all the elected trustees to express your views. We suggest three messages: No selling of public lands. No closing neighbourhood schools. More community use of schools.
OneCity School Trustee Jennifer Reddy campaigned on no school closures and against the selling of VSB land. She is fiercely committed to an equitable, just, and inclusive school system that serves our city and communities. We’re incredibly proud to support her and the work she is doing. And we know you are, too.