British Columbia

VSB trustees discuss fate of 12 schools on the chopping block

Tonight, school board trustees meet to ask questions about 12 schools listed for possible closure in Vancouver while those fighting for the schools hold their breath.

'I hope there will be some hard questions asked'

Richmond parents, students and teachers protesting the potential loss of a school are just one example of the passions that school closures ignite. (CBC)

Tonight, school board trustees meet to ask questions about 12 schools listed for possible closure in Vancouver while those fighting for the schools hold their breath.

"I hope there will be some hard questions asked," said Mike Evans, who is fighting to save Britannia Secondary School.

Britannia Secondary School has a 30 per cent aboriginal population and is situated in a part of Vancouver with projected population growth, say defenders. (Google Maps)

He's not convinced that closing 12 schools and annexes will save $7.7 million per year as the VSB claims.

Other savings are outlined in a detailed administrative report that was posted to the Vancouver School Board's (VSB) website yesterday.

"I don't think they understand the real cost of closing those schools," said Evans.

He said 33 per cent of students at Britannia are Aboriginal.

"There are grandparents who have gone to the same school as the children going there now," he said.

Evans also cited the ice hockey program and the International Baccalaureate as initiatives that would have to be re-established elsewhere, and argues that it makes no sense to close the school when the city is expanding recreation facilities in the area because of projected population growth.

The meeting

VSB trustees will go over details of the report tonight at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School and ask questions, starting at 5 p.m. PT 

Staff will present details of the report, and trustees will then ask questions before making recommendations.

By the end of the meeting, trustees say the public should have a good idea whether any schools will be removed from the list, and whether any trustee might fight to keep any of them open.

The public is allowed to attend but cannot ask questions.

As of now, the following schools are threatened with closure:

  • Admiral Seymour Elementary School. 
  • Britannia Secondary School.
  • Champlain Heights Annex (Kindergarten to Grade 3).
  • Gladstone Secondary School.
  • Graham D. Bruce Elementary School.
  • Sir Guy Carleton Elementary School.
  • Dr. A. R. Lord Elementary.
  • McBride Annex (Kindergarten to Grade 3).
  • ​Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School.
  • Queen Elizabeth Annex (Kindergarten to Grade 3).
  • Queen Alexandra Elementary School.
  • ​Tecumseh Annex (Kindergarten to Grade 3).
A detailed plan of the costs savings that would be realized by closing the 12 suggested schools will be presented Sept. 15 to the Vancouver School Board. (Vancouver School Board)

A formal vote on any school closures will not be held until Sept. 26. No final decisions will be made before December 2016, and no school will close before June of 2017.

Aging buildings

In a news release, the VSB outlined why closures for some older buildings were recommended, including:

  • The average age of VSB schools is 73, with 50 schools over 80 years old.
  • There is over $700 million in outstanding maintenance costs required on VSB schools.
  • In total, 68 VSB schools require more seismic upgrade work.

​Trustee Patti Bacchus said school closures are tough on everybody, predicting there will be more months of protest and presentations by parents in a bid to save their schools.

All of which will weigh heavily on the minds of trustees tonight. 

"It's the most difficult decision trustees ever face," she said.

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