Queen Elizabeth Annex (QEA) is in the media from time to time, due to periodic school closure considerations. We encourage journalists and reporters to please check your facts about our school, and contact us if you need any clarifications.
The issue of closing QEA is complex and should not be oversimplified — there are good reasons why the school remains open, and there are competing interests to close the school that have nothing to do with QEA’s community.
Closing schools is short sighted & rips the heart out of neighbourhoods#StopSchoolClosures. Sign here https://t.co/bni8YW6crO #bcpoli #bced
— BC NDP (@bcndp) June 16, 2015
QEA, DPAC and Vancouver PACs voted to stop all school closures until transparent 30-year planning is done
In October 2021, Vancouver PACs voted 94% in favour of a motion calling to stop to school closures and other irreversible facilities decisions until enrollment projections (demand) and capacity utilization (supply) includes:
- Where kids live now: Census 2021 (results in 2022)
- Where kids will live: Vancouver Plan, Broadway Corridor, Jericho Lands, Senákw and False Creek South (expected approval in 2022)
- Enrollment assumptions that are made public (currently: not public, “proprietary data”)
- School utilization clarified and target set (currently: none)
- Definition of “Neighbourhood School”, central to Trustee’s Vision (currently: no definition, cherry picking excluding district programs such as French Immersion)
- Transparent scoring of schools (currently: none)
VSB is moving to a one-size-fits-all-model, and QEA is just their first target
Sizing all elementary schools to 300-500 students, cancelling honours programs, and reducing French Immersion cohorts — these are all recent policies of the VSB. QEA PAC and many other parents in Vancouver are increasingly concerned with the reduction in choices available in the public school system. If we continue down this path, Vancouver is headed for a two-tiered system where public schools continue to decline, which justifies closing more schools and programs, and choices will only be available to families who can afford to send their children to private schools, which will continue to grow.
There are over 40 elementary schools in Vancouver that are under 300 students, and 40+ schools that are “unsupported” for seismic upgrade. QEA is the first of many targets for closure.
This is VSB’s vision: continued decline in enrolment in Vancouver public schools, despite a continued increase in population. This vision is self-perpetuating — it justifies the closure of schools and programs, which results in a decrease in choices for Vancouver families, who then move or choose private schools, which then results in a continued decline in enrolment.
VSB’s vision is supported by VSB data which contradicts BC Stats data, and VSB does not disclose the assumptions behind their data.
Students should have choices in the public school system
VSB currently offers a high diversity of choices – Indigenous education, schools of different sizes and age groups, specialty programs, mini schools, and more. QEA is 1 of only 2 schools in Vancouver that offer French Immersion in a small Kindergarten to Grade 3 annex. Our school provides a unique and valuable experience for young children: the chance to learn French among other children their own size. Many of our students came to QEA because they needed a smaller school with smaller children, and would have otherwise gone into the private school system. We have children who join QEA in Grade 1 because they struggled to adapt to a K-7 program.
Small schools like QEA offer choices for families, and are important to accommodate different children’s needs. Not every child thrives in a K-7 school with 300-500 students. We really value having choices in the public school system across the whole city.
BC NDP made an election promise in 2020 that they were ready and able to build an elementary school in Vancouver’s Olympic Village, and have now reneged
QEA’s 2019 and now 2022 closure considerations are because BC NDP is requiring VSB to fund 50% for a school in Olympic Village. This is despite BC NDP saying in 2020 that funding had been allocated through the recovery investment fund. QEA does not agree that schools should be pitted against each other and that there should be winners and losers. We believe BC NDP should fund a school in Olympic Village as they said they would, and stop bullying VSB.
VSB only plans for 10 years, when every other planning authority uses a 2050 timeline
The West Side, which includes UBC, the University Endowment Lands (UEL) and Jericho Lands, will run out of school spaces in 10-20 years. But VSB is only planning for 10 years, even though City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health, UBC, UEL and Metro Vancouver all plan for 30+ years and have the data for VSB to do long term planning.
Jericho Lands is less than 2 km from QEA, and is proposed to be the home for 18,000 people — more than doubling West Point Grey’s current population of 13,000. Families who move to Jericho Lands in 10 years can expect to find themselves in a worse situation as families in Olympic Village today: no school site, no school no money. VSB will need to keep its existing schools on the West Side rather than buy new sites in 15-20 years.
VSB’s school-age children forecasts do not account for any of the major developments on the West Side. VSB’s 2021 Long Range Facilities Plan only counts “approved plans of the City of Vancouver” in its 10-year enrolment forecasts. This means that enrolment forecasts are too short-term and do not include approved plans of UBC and the University Endowment Lands (UEL) — two jurisdictions outside of the City of Vancouver — and plans of the City of Vancouver, such as Vancouver Plan and Jericho Lands which are targeting huge numbers of family housing to the West Side and are expected to be approved in 2022.
Closing QEA would further exacerbate Vancouver’s French Immersion capacity deficit
QEA is a French Immersion, kindergarten to grade 3, elementary school. The Vancouver School Board (VSB) had been unable to meet demand for French Immersion in Vancouver. Enrolment has increased by 35% in the last 15 years, and many French Immersion schools, including Queen Elizabeth Annex, have waitlists every year. In 2017, 124 Vancouver students on the French Immersion waitlist were not offered spots. In February 2021, QEA and JQ had 138 applicants for ~40 kindergarten spots for the 2021-2022 school year.
QEA is under-utilized and under-valued by the Vancouver School District
The VSB does not allow QEA to run at full capacity.
We love our Kindergarten-Grade 3 Early French Immersion school, and we advocate for it to be expanded to accommodate more students, and help address Vancouver’s deficit of French Immersion capacity.
Due to space constraints downstream at QEA’s parent school, Ecole Jules Quesnel (JQ), where QEA students go in Grade 4, QEA is only allowed by VSB to operate in 4 of its 6 classrooms, and its portables are reserved as swing space for other schools that are being seismically upgraded. For the past 3 years, the portables have been unoccupied. The total school population vs its capacity is VSB policy and not an expression of demand for French Immersion classroom space from the community.
QEA PAC has been advocating for years to use our spare classrooms for before and after school care or preschool and opening more French Immersion classes to help meet demand. But, with the exception of temporary uses due to seismic upgrades, VSB has not permitted use of these spaces.
QEA urges VSB and the Ministry of Education to find win-win solutions, rather than defaulting to win-lose solutions
We support building a new school in Olympic Village, and finding a site for the CSF to build a school — without closing existing schools.
VSB should first seek win-win solutions (e.g. building a mixed-use school in Olympic Village with housing for teachers that also provides VSB with income / capital costs) and only after win-win solutions have been exhausted explore win-lose options.
We do not support closing down schools to open new schools – chasing population growth areas with new schools and decommissioning schools in neighbourhoods in decline is not sustainable. Jericho Lands and UBC will be in the same situation as Olympic Village in 10 years. This problem will repeat itself every 30 years.
We support geographic equity of schools and housing — measures that make all of Vancouver accessible to families. This would enable families to live where existing family infrastructure exists, rather than a boom and bust cycle of de-commissioning and new build, displacing students and families along the way. In finding a site for the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (CSF), the Ministry of Education should first seek sites that do not displace current students and families.