May 17, 2016 10:10 pm

3 Vancouver schools could close sooner than expected

WATCH: The Vancouver School Board has updated its plan to deal with its budget crunch, and as Tanya Beja reports, it names three schools that could be shuttered as early as this September.

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The playing fields around John Oliver Secondary School are popular with students. They’re also prime real estate.

The Vancouver School Board is considering subdividing and selling or leasing the land to keep the cash-strapped district afloat.

“It does really beg the question why the Vancouver School Board has to become a business to be able to run its operations, ” parent Meaghan Duthie said.

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The district is facing a $24-million budget shortfall. It also needs to prove schools are 95 per cent full to get provincial funding for seismic upgrades.

Carving up two properties, including Carleton Elementary, could help meet both goals.

“We may have an opportunity to develop a section along 41st [Avenue] and along Kingsway for some development and the proceeds from that development would help us with the seismic upgrade and capital planning in Vancouver,” VSB Chair Mike Lombardi said.

Trustees are also moving ahead with plans to close as many as 21 schools, some earlier than expected.

Chief Maquinna Annex, Sir Wilfred Laurier Annex and John Henderson Annex won’t have any students come September.

“The government is not funding public education properly,” Andrea Sinclair of the Parent Advocacy Network said. “They’ve deprioritized it and if there was to be more money in it, then a lot of these decisions wouldn’t have to get made.”

But Vancouver is also facing declining enrolment. Deciding which schools to close will depend on whether students can be accommodated nearby.

Parents were surveyed and the majority support closures if their children are safer.

“If they can bring communities together and make them stronger than they were — potentially in a seismically safe building or a brand new building — parents have said quite loudly that they’re in favour of that,” Sinclair said.

Schools facing potential closure will be announced June 20.

– With files from Tanya Beja

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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