Queen Elizabeth Annex (QEA) is in the media from time to time, due to periodic 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. Here are a few facts about our school to consider when looking at the story from QEA’s side:
QEA is a District Program — our students come from neighbourhoods all over Vancouver
QEA is a French Immersion school situated on Vancouver’s West Side, less than 3 km from UBC. As a district program (French Immersion), students from all over Vancouver can attend QEA. We have families from UBC, Dunbar, and Kitsalano, but also many families from Mount Pleasant, Strathcona and further south and east.
Closing QEA would further exacerbate Vancouver’s French Immersion capacity deficit
QEA is a French Immersion, kindergarten to grade 3, primary 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 Frech Immersion schools, including Queen Elizabeth Annex, have waiting lists every year. In 2017, 124 Vancouver students on the French Immersion waitlist were not offered spots. In March 2020, QEA still had 52 students on their waitlist after filling all of its spots for 2020-2021.
During the 2020 consideration of QEA’s closure, VSB staff stated that all current QEA students would be moved to Ecole Jules Quesnel (JQ), but when parents investigated how QEA’s students would fit into JQ, it was revealed that the incoming Kindergarten class would have to be dropped. Over the past 3 years, VSB has phased out 6 French Immersion cohorts, closing QEA would make it 7 — adding to the existing deficit of French Immersion capacity in Vancouver.
The Vancouver School District does not allow QEA to operate at full capacity
Due to space constraints downstream at QEA’s parent school, Ecole Jules Quesnel, where QEA students go in Grade 4, QEA is only allowed by VSB to operate at a maximum of 80% capacity. The total school population relative to its capacity is more a matter of VSB direction than an expression of demand for classroom space from the community.
QEA PAC has been advocating for years to use the spare classrooms for before and after school care or preschool, or 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. These spaces could be used for community-benefit, and bring income for VSB, but VSB’s interests seem to lie in de-valuing QEA as an asset to the school board while open, and prefer to emphasize its financial value if closed.
The West Side, which includes UBC and Jericho Lands, will run out of school spaces within 10 years
In the last 10 years, the population of neighbourhoods around QEA has already seen an increase of 50-100% for children aged 5-14.
QEA is located less than 3 km from Wesbrook Place, in UBC, where school aged population has increased 100-200% in the last 10 years. And Wesbrook Place is still gorwing — its population is set to double in the next 10 years, with new family units being delivered every year. In fact, UBC’s average percentage of households with primary school-aged children is almost double that of the City of Vancouver (UBC 6.2% children aged 5-9 compared to City of Vancouver average of 3.7%). Schools at UBC are already at capacity, with no French Immersion programs. QEA and its parent school, Ecole Jules Quesnel, are UBC’s French Immersion schools.
Jericho Lands is less than 2 km from QEA, and at 90 acres is considered Vancouver’s largest development site — 10 acres larger than southeast False Creek, which is home to Olympic Village. Families who move to Jericho Lands over the next 10 years can expect to find themselves in a similar situation as families in Olympic Village — space for a school but no money from the Province to build one, despite local demand. VSB will need to keep its existing schools in the West Side open to hedge the risk that the Ministry of Education will continue to stop building new schools in Vancouver.
VSB’s school-age children forecasts do not account for these major developments on the West Side. VSB’s 2019 Long Range Facilities Plan projected that UBC’s peak children population was already reached in 2017, despite evidence to the contrary and continuous development of family units, many of which are under construction right now.
QEA urges VSB and the Ministry of Education to find win-win solutions, rather than defaulting to win-lose solutions
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 (e.g. closing an existing school to fund other schools or seismic upgrades).
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. This problem will repeat itself every 30 years. We support measures to 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-commisioning 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.