A public survey on due diligence expected before closing a school or selling public school land could have been a fantastic opportunity to dive deeper a gain wide views on the important issue. QEA PAC is disappointed by the missed opportunity, and we have the following suggestions for raising the issues you think are important in this deeply flawed survey.
Dear students, caregivers, families and members of the public,
The Vancouver School Board (VSB) is setting the stage to close 40+ schools in Vancouver, with Queen Elizabeth Annex being the first target.
DPAC, Vancouver PACs and QEA PAC have been sending the message to VSB Trustees and Staff for almost 1 year to stop all school closures until a transparent 30-year long term plan for school facilities is made.
Last week many families, likely including some of you, will have received a letter from VSB staff informing them of a public survey on the closure of Queen Elizabeth Annex (QEA). This survey does not address the concerns that DPAC, Vancouver PACs and QEA PAC have raised regarding due diligence required before closing any schools or selling school land in Vancouver.
If you agree that a 30-year long term plan for schools facilities, that’s based on where kids live now and where kids will live in the future and transparently discloses enrollment assumptions, is needed before closing any schools, we encourage you to state this in the open response after question 6 on the VSB’s survey. The answers provided in the survey do not provide any options that address these concerns raised.
QEA PAC encourages students, caregivers and the wider public to express your views and concerns directly to Trustees via email or other means, and in the open form areas of the survey.
You can also:
- Sign our petition
- Join our rally (potentially April 25th with final date/time to be confirmed) – contact Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org
What has been VSB’s response to the “Transparent planning first” calls from Vancouver parents?
- In October 2021, Vancouver PACs voted 94% in favour of a motion to stop school closures until a transparent 30-year long term plan for school facilities is made, at DPAC’s General meeting.
- QEA parents have presented a motion to VSB Trustees and Staff in June 2021, and again in January 2022 with the results of the PAC vote.
- Despite this clear messaging and wide PAC support, the VSB has not made any response and has instead recommended the closure of a school without addressing any of these concerns.
What are the signs to look for that your school is their next target for closure?
- Smaller than 300 students or larger than 550 students – according to the Preferred School Size Working Group Final Report and Recommended Guidelines, any school with an operating capacity of <300 students or more than 550 students is at risk of closure
- Annexes, mini schools and special programs – according to the rationale to close QEA, any school with an operating cost per student above the Ministry’s basic enrolment funding allocation of $7885 per student is at risk of closure
- “Unsupported” for seismic mitigation – according to the SMP (seismic mitigation plan), any school that is “unsupported” for seismic mitigation is at risk of closure
How could this survey have been more balanced and better solicit broad public feedback on the complex issue of school closures and sale of public land?
- QEA PAC finds this survey deeply problematic and leading, and a missed opportunity to gain genuine public views
- The preamble presents one-sided and untrue information about school enrollment decline (“8% decline”, which is not sourced and contradicts VSB’s own data (2.2% decline between 2010 and 2020, with 4/10 years showing increases) and BC Stats data showing a 13% increase in the same period. When different official sources conflict, it’s transparent to provide both sources.
- Questions have been designed to reinforce the arguments in the VSB staff recommendation, rather than ask views of the public to inform a decision. For example, question 3 only provides answer options that reinforce the argument to close.
- e.g. “Be fiscally responsible” – advocates of long term planning would argue that the most fiscally responsible action would be to check first if schools sites are needed in the 30-year time frame, before closing schools and selling land, as land price increases over 5-10-20 years could far outweigh cost savings in the short term
- Learn more about QEA PAC’s issues with the survey and preamble
Why do DPAC, Vancouver PACs and QEA PAC support long term facilities planning first?
- School closures are forever, and selling school land is forever. Before closing or selling schools, long term 30-year planning is available and needed to understand whether we need those sites in the known future
- 30-year planning is typical for planning agencies, and many jurisdictions in the region are releasing their 30-year plans this year which can easily form the basis of a 30 year plan for VSB’s school facilities:
- The current VSB Long Range Facilities Plan only plans to 2029 (7 years from now), and is based on enrollment projections that do not include Canada Census 2021 and any of the plans that are coming on line right now:
- Metro 2050 – 1 million more people in the region by 2050
- VSB jurisdiction (Vancouver, UBC and UEL, not including Musqueam and Squamish reserve lands) – 300,000+ more people by 2050
- Broadway Plan – 50,000-60,000 more people on 2100 acres
- Jericho Lands – 18,000 more people on 90 acres
- UBC / UEL – 31,000 more people on 270 acres
- Sen̓áḵw (Squamish reserve land) – 10,000 more people on 11 acres
- Musqueam Reserve #2 (IR2) – [currently undergoing planning for 230 acres]
- Metro 2050, Vancouver Plan and UBC’s Land Use Plan all focus on building complete neighbourhoods, that include schools. A school in every neighbourhood is central to creating a sustainable, healthy, resilient and safe future for our kids.
- According to VSB data, there has been a decline of 2.2% for students in the district between 2010 and 2020, but according to BC Stats, there has been a 13% increase in children age 5-12 years old in the Vancouver School District between 2010 and 2020(from 631,789 children age 5-12 in 2010 to 716,827 in 2020), and recent plans for Vancouver that are being built right now include policies to attract even more families.
- A good case study to understand the future of Vancouver is to look at UBC, where medium and high density housing that attracts families has been built since 2001:
- In 2016, UBC had a % of elementary school aged children per household above the BC average (UBC: 8.2% children age 5-12 per household, BC average 8.1%, City of Vancouver 5.8%, source: Canada Census 2016).
- Continuing this trend, Jericho Lands would need an additional 3-5 elementary schools, and UBC/UEL an additional 2-4 elementary schools between 2030-2050 (calculated based on school sizes of 300-550 students).