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. Here are a few facts about our school to consider when looking at the story from QEA’s side.
QEA is unique and available to anyone: 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 Kitsilano, but also families from Mount Pleasant, Strathcona and further south and east. We are 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.
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 waiting lists 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.
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 QEA’s incoming Kindergarten cohort would 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
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 2 years, the portables have been unoccupied. The total school population relative to its capacity is more a matter of VSB policy than 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.
The West Side, which includes UBC, the University Endowment Lands (UEL) 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 growing — 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 today: space for a school but no money from the Province to build one, despite local demand. VSB will need to keep its existing schools on 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 2021 Long Range Facilities Plan only counts “approved plans of the City of Vancouver” in its enrolment forecasts. This means that enrolment forecasts do not include approved plans of UBC and the University Endowment Lands (UEL) — two jurisdictions outside of the City of Vancouver — and imminent plans of the City of Vancouver, such as the tens of thousands of people expected in Jericho Lands.
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.