QEA parents learned on Friday January 14th 2022 that VSB staff are again recommending a closure consideration. We have families at QEA who are facing closure for the third time here — in just 5 years. QEA is just the first target: there are 40+ schools in Vancouver that could be closed using the same basis.

This is about bigger issues: lack of transparency in decision-making, a reduction of choices in Vancouver’s public school system, and short-term deals without long-term 30 year planning to understand consequences.

Do you want long term planning before closing schools or selling land?
Here’s how we suggest to respond to VSB’s public survey

Finding VSB’s public survey misleading? Read our letter to VSB Staff and Jessica Delaney (communications consultant) about how the survey is a missed opportunity

What you can do:

  • Write letters to Trustees – the big vote is on January 31st, that is where the 8 Trustees of the Vancouver Board of Education will vote on whether to proceed with public consultation, or whether to stop the closure consideration. 
  • Get support from other schools and parents – if you have friends and families from other schools, please ask them to learn about what’s going on (below), and to also write to Trustees. Trustees are elected by the voters of Vancouver.
  • Sign and share our petition – our petition in 2019 garnered over 500 signatures, this time we’re trying to stop all school closures until there is a long term plan and hope to garner 1000s.

Learn about what’s going on:

Watch our presentation to the VSB’s Committee of the Whole on January 24th 2022 to learn more.

QEA PAC does not support any school closures or land sales without transparent 30-year planning first. This position is shared by DPAC Exec and Vancouver PACs — who voted 94% in favour of a PAC-lead motion on this in October 2021.

QEA is just the first target for school closures by the Vancouver School Board (VSB). VSB has put in place several policies over the last few years which could result in 40+ schools being closed. These policies include sizing all elementary schools to 300-550 students, cancelling special programs, and reducing French Immersion cohorts. One good indication of what’s to come is that there are over 40 schools that are unsupported for seismic upgrade.

Parents have been rallying since May 2021 for VSB staff to create a transparent 30-year plan based on where kids live now and where kids will live in the future, before closing any schools or selling public land. The VSB’s current Long Range Facilities Plan only plans to 2029 — that means a decision to close a school forever is based on 2016 census data that only looks 7 years into the future from now.

This year the 2021 census data is being released, Vancouver is finalizing its 30-year plan, the region is finalizing its 30-year plan, and UBC is starting its 30-year plan. This is the time to create a plan for the 30-year future based on these new data sets, before making decisions about which school sites are needed and which are not.

We are asking:

  • Why now? Board said in 2019 not again, why not focus on pandemic safety for kids and teachers now when we need it most?
  • What due diligence are trustees requiring from staff to demonstrate that VSB doesn’t need QEA’s site for the next 30+ years?
  • Why is VSB only planning for 7 years, when City of Vancouver, UBC and Metro Vancouver are planning to 2050? And the data to plan for 30-years is coming online this year?
  • Why displace kids at QEA when other empty sites are available? CSF’s site at Heather Lands is expected to be approved this spring, why rush into a decision about QEA now?
  • Which sites were evaluated and what criteria used to assess sites for a CSF school? Why haven’t parents been involved? Why isn’t displacement of children the highest weighted criteria?
  • Why are un-safe seats being proposed for the relocation of QEA students? Why is a school that can’t fit QEA being proposed?
  • Why are choices — different school sizes and age ranges, special programs, French Immersion — being reduced in the Vancouver public school system? Are trustees concerned that Vancouver is moving towards a two-tiered system where only families who can afford private schools have choices?
  • Why does VSB need to sell QEA to fund a school in Olympic Village when the BC NDP already promised in 2020 that their government was ready and able to build it?

Questions? qea.parents@gmail.com

On October 28th, 2021 at the DPAC General meeting, 33 Vancouver PACs voted 94% in support of our PAC-lead motion calling for transparent planning by the Vancouver School Board.

View the full presentation here

Why wait for transparent, data-based, equitable decision-making?

Several key planning tools are about to come on line in 2022 which will give VSB a rare opportunity: a clear indication of where children live now (Census 2021) and where children are going to live (upcoming major plans, including the Vancouver Plan, Jericho Lands and Broadway Corridor). It’s just good planning practice to wait for this impactful information before making any irreversible decisions, such as school closures.

School planning should be based on estimating future demand, and ensuring school districts have the supply needed to keep pace with demand.
However, VSB does not provide their underlying assumptions for supply or demand, and their data contradicts other public sources of data.

This is not a motion against all school closures, land sales, or seismic upgrades. This is a motion in support of transparency and data-based, equitable decision-making. Let’s take this time to recover from COVID-19 impacts and plan our future transparently.

Vancouver parents would like to see transparent planning first, before irreversible facilities decisions such as school closures are pursued.

What’s at stake? The future of public education

We imagine a not-so-distant future where Vancouver public education is thriving…a future where families of all incomes can live in every neighbourhood of the city. Where existing family-supportive infrastructure like schools, community centres, libraries and parks is surrounded by family housing. Upcoming developments like Senakw, Oakridge and Heather Lands, and plans such as Vancouver Plan, Jericho Lands, Broadway Plan and False Creek South are built out, tens of thousands of single homes are being built into duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and laneway homes.

Existing and new schools can be found in every neighbourhood and offer a diversity of sizes, programs and age ranges. Access to schools and programs is an equitable choice for all students. Private school enrollment declines as public schools provide more choices in safe facilities that can be conveniently accessed in every neighbourhood by bike or walking. Kids walk to school with their neighbours and have access to after school care on site.

Contrast this with VSB’s current vision: declining enrollment in public schools despite continued increase in the population of Vancouver.

Where does VSB’s vision lead? A two-tiered system, where public schools are large one-size-fits-all facilities with few educational options, pushing families who can afford it into a private school system that provides choices they used to have in the public system.

Imagine in 2030…families of all incomes and sizes have the choice to live in any neighbourhood they want…public schools offer an equitable diversity of choices within walking distance of homes…in safe facilities of different sizes.

Working together, not pitting against each other

QEA faced school closure considerations in 2019, 2016 and 2010. And while there is currently no announcement about school closure considerations, there are 8 schools mentioned in the 2021 Long Range Facilities Plan that could be impacted in the future by “consolidation”, “relocation” or “merger”, and 40 schools that are “unsupported” for seismic upgrade. Rather than scrambling one school at a time — or worse, having schools pitted against each other — our hope is to pull together and collectively ask the VSB to do its homework first before making irreversible decisions that impact children and families.  

In May and June we held several presentations to DPAC, parents and PACs to spread the word and modify the motion to benefit as many schools and students as possible. In June, QEA presented the proposed motion to the Trustee’s Committee of the Whole — with 6 other delegations from schools across Vancouver supporting us!

We’ve spoken directly with around 18 schools, who have differing views on school closures, land sales, and seismic upgrade priorities, but what we have consistently heard from everyone is that if an irreversible decision is going to be made, it must be based on up-to-date and transparent numbers. Schools also don’t want to be pitted against each other any more, and want decisions to be based on transparent planning practices instead.

VSB no longer includes a “Closure list” in the Long Range Facilities Plan,
but several VSB policy documents help paint the picture of future directions on school closures.

The danger of irreversible decisions without transparent long-term planning

To illustrate the importance of using the most up-to-date data and planning before making irreversible decisions, we looked into the status of 12 schools which were under closure consideration in 2010. Looking at school capacity utilization by catchment in 2019, we can see that just 9 years after being on the chopping block, 6 of these 12 schools were located in high utilization areas (80-140% capacity utilization).

How can I support transparent long range planning?

​Write a letter – send a letter to Trustees and to your MLA indicating your personal or your group’s support (such as a PAC) for the motion, and ask friends / family from other schools across Vancouver to also send a letter in support.

Questions? Ideas? Please reach out to us at qea.parents@gmail.com or DPAC’s Vice-Chair who has been appointed by DPAC to continue advocacy for the motion.