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

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