VPD Safe Place, guidelines for elections, strategic plan, board priorities 2016/17, student trustee – Sept 14

Highlights from the Management Co-ordinating Committee (I) of September 14.

Thank you to VPD Detective Constable Dale Quiring, Hate Crimes Unit and LGBTQ Liaison Officer, for presenting to us about the Safe Place Initiative.  This initiative began this year and allows any business or public location to display a special decal to indicate it’s a haven for victims of hate crime.  See https://vpdsafeplace.com/ and the transgender training video “Walk With Me“.
The committee supported having the Safe Place decals displayed at our schools as this initiative supports our goal of creating a culture of care and shared responsibility.

Report:  http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16_09Sept14_item%202.pdf

“Guidelines for Election Campaigning and Politically Motivated Communications” were developed in October 2014.  These guidelines have been updated to include reference to political events held as schools and are supported by the committee.
The committee also reviewed the consent form for photographing students and policy/guidelines for political visits to schools and media consent/release and did not suggest any updates.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16_09Sept14_item%203.pdf

The draft Strategic Plan was presented and recommended for approval by the board.
The Plan is a responsive and flexible framework providing direction and ensuring action over the next five years.  A systematic accountability program is currently being developed for reporting, adjusting and modifying the plan over time, ensuring ti will remain useful and relevant in achieving the VSB’s long-term goals.  Committee members thanked all the staff who worked on developing this plan and are looking forward to progress updates.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16_09Sept14_item%204.pdf

The Board Priorities, based on the Strategic Plan, determine the areas of focus each school year.  For 2016/17 six priorities, each with several action points, were presented and recommended for approval by the board.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16_09Sept14_item%205_0.pdf

The student trustee policy was updated to clarify the Board’s support for conference attendance – one out of district conference related to the trustee role, within a reasonable budget and in alignment with Board conference expense guidelines.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16_09Sept14_item%206.pdf

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees

11/12 schools could close, but not Britannia Secondary

This year the VSB developed and unanimously approved a Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), a framework for the future of Vancouver’s schools, including that all schools be seismically safe by 2030.  In approving the LRFP trustees also directed VSB staff to prepare a preliminary list of schools that could be considered for closure, and the list of 12 schools was released in June.

At a September 15 committee meeting of all trustees we unanimously recommended that the 11/12 schools should be considered for closure and that they move forward to the public consultation phase.  Britannia Secondary was the only school that was not recommended to be considered for closure.

Why would trustees recommend schools be considered for closure when this is incredibly disruptive to students, their families and their neighbourhoods?  Key reasons include:

  1.  To move forward our seismic safety program we must work within the Ministry of Education’s requirements including moving towards a 95% district wide capacity utilization and using existing school buildings to temporarily house students from schools where seismic construction means they cannot stay at their school site. Closing schools will increase our capacity utilization and eight of the twelve schools on the list could be used for temporary accommodation.
    In Vancouver there are 64 schools that are not approved seismic projects, which means that 28,000 students and hundreds of staff are in seismically unsafe schools every school day.
  2. We are still facing a budget crisis as next year’s projected shortfall is $15 M – to create a balanced budget we need to cut $15 M from the programs, teaching and resources provided this year.
    If all 12 schools were closed that would save about $7 M.
    If all the cuts that were removed from last year’s budget (inc. 10 school based office support staff, Athletic Coodinator, Fine & Performing Arts Coordinator, Anti-Homophobia Mentor, 1 multicultural liaison worker, 3 district gifted staff, 18 secondary teachers, 9 Enhanced Services (Inner City) literacy teachers, 12 special education support workers, and 6 elementary non-enrolling staff) were reinstated it would save about $5.5 M.
    It is anticipated leasing schools not needed for seismic temporary accommodation would provide $0.5 M in income.
    An additional $2 M in cuts to programs, teaching and resources are required to balance the $15 M shortfall.
    For any school not closed additional cuts equal to the amount of money that would be saved by closing the school would be required to balance the budget.
  3. The province is not providing funds to build new schools in areas of our city where student enrollment is increasing.  Last year we had 14 elementary schools and 2 annexes declared full and more than 100 Kindergarten students could not register at their catchment school.  Increasing capacity utilization should improve our chances of securing Ministry funding for new schools.

As for all of the 12 schools on the possible closure list there was a recommendation that Britannia be considered for closure and proceed to public consultation.

It was very challenging to consider any school for closure but I struggled particularly with Britannia Secondary because on July 6, 2015 our board unanimously passed a motion that included the VSB undertake a review of the Truth and Reconciliation Report and commit its full support to reconciliation.  As Britannia Secondary has 189 students of Aboriginal ancestry, the most at any secondary school, it is difficult to reconcile the VSB committing its full support to reconciliation with considering this school for closure. As such I decided that to consider Britannia Secondary for closure without broad support from our board would be too divisive to both our school district and our city.

I acknowledge that not considering Britannia for closure has significant impacts to our district:

  • There does not appear to be a route forward for either Britannia or Templeton to become seismically safe.
  • Removing Britannia as a temporary accommodation site may reduce our district’s ability to achieve seismically safe schools by 2030.
  • An additional $2 million in cuts will be required in next year’s budget.
  • There does not appear to be a route forward to increase the size of King George Secondary, currently operating at 120% capacity, to respond to increasing student enrolment downtown.

It is the unfortunate reality that all BC trustees must work within the mandated provincial funding and follow the provincial seismic requirements, for example for capacity utilization.  The province has the money and sets the rules.
Vancouver trustees took the extreme step of not approving a balanced budget last year but even this action did not prevent the $21 million of cuts required to balance the budget.  All BC trustees face very difficult decisions in the intertwined areas of school closures/seismic programs and budget, and I believe we must continue to advocate for stable, predictable and adequate funding for public education.

I would like to thank everyone who came to our meeting last night as well as everyone who has participated so far – there are so many people who care so deeply about both their own schools and BC’s public education.  I realize the recommendation to consider 11/12 schools for closure will be very disappointing and upsetting to many people but as we move into consultation my hope is that many people will participate so that any decision of the trustees is based on all the input and information possible.

Finally I would like to thank every one of the VSB staff who worked on the LRFP and possible school closures.  Trustees direct our staff to undertake incredibly difficult tasks, such as proposing cuts to balance budgets and recommending schools for closure, and I appriciate the thorough and respectful manner is which such sensitive tasks have been handled.

Board meeting – Sept 12

At our first meeting of the new school year trustees were very pleased to welcome our new student trustee Isabella Priete, a Grade 12 French Immersion student from Kitsilano Secondary.  Thank you Isabella for taking on this student voice role at our board meetings.

All four votes at this relatively short board meeting were unanimous.

The notice of motion for the Britannia agreement was deferred to the board meeting of October 17 because VSB staff reported that discussions are ongoing with the City of Vancouver.

At the request of an adjacent landowner the board approved a reciprocal construction easement bylaw for Kingsgate Mall to allow cranes to swing over each other’s sites.

The board approved two urgent motions:

That the Board instruct the Chairperson to write a letter to the Minister of Education requesting that the full board be provided with a confidential briefing from the Special Advisor regarding his report on the VSB prior to the report’s release.

The board believes that we would better understand the report’s content and any recommendations if we were able to discuss them with the Special Advisor.

That the Board request staff to prepare a written submission for the Chairperson’s presentation to the BC Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services regarding the 2017 provincial budget.  The submission should be an updated version of the board’s submission from last year.

Each fall, the all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds province-wide public consultations on the next provincial budget. For many years the VSB had made submissions supporting stable, adequate and predictable K-12 education funding, for example the 2016 submission.  And this committee has recommended that the provincial government provide stable, adequate and predictable K-12 funding, for example the 2016 report:

  1. Provide adequate capital funding to school districts for facility improvements, seismic upgrades and additional schools in rapidly-growing communities. (2013: #25 and 2014: #23)
  2. Provide stable, sustainable and adequate funding to enable school districts to fulfil their responsibility to continue to provide access to quality public education, with recognition of the increased costs that school districts have incurred. (2014: #22)
  3. Review the Ministry of Education funding formula for programs and services, as well as administrative staff compensation levels to ensure adequate and competitive compensation.


For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees

The challenge of considering school closures

This year the VSB developed and unanimously approved a Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), a plan for the future of Vancouver’s schools and for all our schools to be seismically safe by 2030.

In approving the LRFP trustees also approved the implementation actions which included asking VSB staff to (1) prepare a preliminary list of schools to be considered for closure and (2) provide detailed information and background reports on each school in September.

Why would trustees consider closing schools when this would disrupt students’ education?

  • With declining enrolment and provincial funding per student we have less money to spend in our district – reducing building operating costs would allow more funding for staff and education programs.
  • Closing schools will increase capacity utilization and support access to provincial seismic funding as soon as possible.
  • We need more temporary accommodation to move forward the seismic program as soon as possible and closed schools would provide more space.
  • In some Vancouver neighbourhoods schools cannot accommodate all the in-catchment students and increasing district-wide capacity utilization will support requests to fund new schools where student numbers are already beyond their schools’ capacities.
  • Closing schools will significantly reduce VSB liability for deferred maintenance on school buildings.

Where are we in the process of considering of school for closure?

A preliminary list of 12 schools that could be considered for closure was released on June 20.  The detailed information and background reports for each school will be presented on September 15 at a Committee II/III meeting at Tupper Secondary.  It is anticipated that the reports will be released online on September 13.
All trustees are Committee II/III members so they and the stakeholder committee representatives will have the opportunity to ask staff questions about the reports. As was the case in 2010, there will be later public consultation for any school considered for closure and anyone can participate in that process.
At the September 26 board meeting, also at Tupper Secondary, trustees will decide on which schools will be considered for closure.  Any affected school community will be notified and given the October/November dates for public consultation meetings.
At the December 12 board meeting trustees will decide whether any of the schools under consideration will close – the earliest any school would close is June 2017, at the end of this school year.

The VSB has posted an updated infographic for this timeline.

Having to consider closing schools is very challenging, as I’m sure it has been for many other trustees in many other school districts across the province.
I do not want to close any schools but I also want our seismic program to move forward as quickly as possible, I want to build new schools where they are needed, and I do not want to make any more cuts to our education programs and staff. These are so closely intertwined that a decision in one area impacts the others, and it seems impossible to achieve good outcomes in all areas.
As a trustee I must try consider all of the impacts on all of the students in our district as I work through how to make my decisions about school closures.  This will not be easy, in fact I anticipate it will be very, very difficult, but as always the focus must be on our students and how to best support their education.

Long Range Facilities Plan: http://engage.vsb.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/lrfp-final-report-may-2016-board-approved2.pdf
LRFP Appendices: http://engage.vsb.bc.ca/lrfp-updates/
VSB School Closure Policy: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-policy/fl-school-closures-formerly-retirement-facilities