On Monday night, school trustees voted to go ahead with public consultations in the affected communities. The decision was made despite a rally held earlier in the day to keep all of them open.
Britannia Secondary was the only school removed from the list of possible closures. The rest of the schools will take part in a public consultation process, slated to begin in mid-October.
“The VSB recognizes that this is a very difficult time, for parents, students and staff, as trustees continue to the next steps of the long range facilities plan, and the public consultation process regarding potential school closures,” VSB Chair Mike Lombardi said.
Lombardi said the consultation process will allow trustees to hear from the public, parents, and the communities and that VSB staff have submitted their reports on why the list of schools should be considered.
“The board wants to hear from the communities about their thoughts and proposals, before it makes any decisions,” Lombardi said.
In June, the VSB announced that six elementary schools, four annexes and two high schools could potentially close in the city. The VSB is struggling to cut its operating costs and faces an $18-million shortfall.
The potential closures are a result of pressure to meet provincial capacity standards as the board strives to meet a district-wide capacity of 95 per cent.
In August, Lombardi said if all the schools on the list were closed, it would save the school board about $8.8 million a year.
The updated list of potential schools closing are: Queen Elizabeth annex, Champlain heights annex, Tecumseh annex, Mcbride annex, Admiral Seymour elementary, Graham Bruce elementary, Sir Guy Carleton elementary, Queen Alexandra, Pierre Elliot Trudeau elementary and Gladstone secondary.
“I understand how difficult any conversation about potentially closing schools can be and I know that schools are more than buildings and number,” Lombardi said.
“I believe they are the hub and heart of our community. At this time, again, no decisions have been made about any school closures in Vancouver. We need to hear from and talk with people from throughout the school communities who will be affected if any of these schools were to be closed.”
Up to 21 Vancouver schools could close over the next 14 years, however at the time of the announcement in June, Education Minister Mike Bernier said in a statement that schools are not closing due to a lack of funding.
“Schools are closing because of a lack of students. Since 2001, enrollment has dropped by more than 10 per cent in Vancouver — by 6,200 students. At the same time funding has gone up more than 20 per cent. As well with our May 31 announcement that districts would be able to redirect Administrative Savings to front-line education services – this coming school year and moving forward. In Vancouver this provided $2,251,318.”
“We’re investing a record $5.1 billion in public education this year. Annual education funding is $1.2 billion higher than it was in 2000/01 – a 32 per cent increase.”