British Columbia

Britannia Secondary school taken off closure list

Issues related to vulnerable students and commitment to truth and reconciliation cited as reasons to keep Britannia open, according to the VSB.

Decision will be made final at VSB meeting Sept. 26

Britannia Secondary school has a student population that is 30 per cent Aboriginal. (Google Maps)

The Vancouver School Board has taken Britannia Secondary off a list of schools that could eventually be closed.

The decision comes after a five hour-long board meeting at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary school Thursday night, where trustees met to discuss a report outlining details about 12 schools on a preliminary list considered for closure.

"Britannia is situated in the poorest postal code in all of Canada and we have a significant percentage of vulnerable kids  — including Aboriginal kids — and these kids are working really hard and being supported by a variety of community organizations to succeed. We felt in the year of truth and reconciliation this was the year to build on what Britannia had been doing — not to close it down," said Mike Lombardi, chair of the VSB.

There are still 11 schools at risk.

Lombardi said parents from three other schools sent 11,000 petitions urging the VSB to reconsider closing their schools too.

"What we heard is that [there's] magic that occurs in the public schools of Vancouver," said Lombardi, who hopes with new revenues pouring into B.C. government coffers from real estate taxes money will be diverted to education.

He claims B.C. is close to the bottom when it comes to education funding compared with other provinces.

The said the board now has to fund seismic upgrades to make schools safe, and trustees are forced to close schools to do that.

"That is pitting schools against schools and the board will not do that," he added.

Britannia celebrates

For now one group — those who fought to save the 109 year old school on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside — is celebrating. The school's voicemail was filled with messages early this morning.

School Board trustee Patti Bacchus said the school's hockey program and proximity to a community centre and library are additional reasons for why the school should not be closed.

Bacchus added that although the decision will have to be made official at another board meeting on September 26, she doesn't expect anything to change as all of the trustees were present at Thursday's meeting.