The Vancouver School Board may close up to 12 elementary schools and one secondary school over the next 15 years as part of its seismic upgrading plan.

According to the staff report on the board's Interim Long Range Facilities Plan, the school closures would also help to address declining enrolment rates.

"The report is focused on trying to secure funding from the Ministry of Education to seismically upgrade our schools, so our kids can be in safe buildings," said board chair Mike Lombardi.

The plan is due to be submitted to the B.C. Ministry of Education by the end of January.

14 school seismic upgrades prioritized

The report also recommends prioritizing seismic upgrades at the following 14 schools:

  • Cavell Elementary
  • Wolfe Elementary
  • Prince of Wales Secondary
  • Tennyson Elementary
  • Maple Grove Elementary
  • Weir Elementary
  • Jamieson Elementary
  • Thompson Secondary
  • Bayview Elementary
  • Point Grey Secondary
  • Hamber Secondary
  • Killarney Secondary
  • Lloyd George Elementary
  • Kingsford-Smith Elementary

In addition, the report also recommends reviewing the "viability" of seismic upgrades at the following 11 schools:

  • Waverley Elementary
  • Grenfell Elementary
  • Begbie Elementary
  • Mackenzie Elementary
  • John Oliver Secondary
  • Renfrew Elementary
  • Templeton Secondary
  • Carleton Elementary
  • Livingstone Elementary
  • Hudson Elementary
  • False Creek Elementary

No decision made yet, says chair

While some schools are singled out in the report, it doesn't necessarily mean they will be closed, says Lombardi.

Up to eight schools may also be repurposed to provide extra school spaces during seismic work on other schools.

"The school board hasn't made any decisions about any school closures and there are no schools identified for closure," said Lombardi.

"Once the report goes to the minister, we'll have a discussion within the zones of the system to look at different schools that are there, to make sure there are schools to meet the enrolment capacities in each area."

While the report sets out overall enrolment projections, figures for each individual area aren't yet available, says Lombardi.

"That conversation [about viability] will look at ... each of those schools based on enrolment projections, but at this point in time we don't have those projections," he said.

"We need to go to the community and say, 'Here's what our enrolment projections show, here's the capacity of our schools.'"

Under the plan, all board schools not identified for closure or repurposing would be seismically upgraded by 2030 or earlier.

Enrolment to rise by 550 students

According to the report, some 50,387 students are currently enrolled in the district, while capacity stands at 59,585. Enrolment is expected to rise by only 550 students over the next 15 years.

The plan would reduce the district's capacity to 53,618 by 2030, raising the use of school spaces from 84.6 per cent to 95 per cent, as required by the ministry.

The report says by closing or repurposing a school, the board would save on average $249,000 in annual operating costs for an annex, $567,000 for an elementary main school and $1,949,000 for a secondary school.

The board would also save one-time costs for deferred maintenance of between $2 million and $4 million for an elementary school and up to $17 million for a secondary school, staff say.

In terms of savings in seismic upgrading costs, the report adds, the board would save between $8 million and $16 million for an elementary school and between $30 million and $60 million for a secondary school.

The committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the report, then it will go to the board for approval on Jan. 26. The ministry requires the board to submit the report by Jan 31, with no prior public consultation.

However, the board says it will consult the public between February and June, and send an updated version of the plan to the ministry by June 30.

Read the VSB staff report

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Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said the report recommended reviewing the viability of some schools. In fact, it was the viability of seismic upgrades at those schools which was in question.
    Jan 20, 2016 11:36 AM PT