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Vancouver School Board agrees to seismic upgrade plan that could close up to 13 schools

Last Updated Jan 26, 2016 at 8:19 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Many parents upset that up to 13 schools could be closed and eight others could be reporposed by 2030

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Parents say they are anxious after what appears to be a hands-tied decision by the Vancouver School Board that could see 13 schools closed and eight others repurposed by 2030.

Twelve elementary schools are on the list.

Blame for the decision is being pointed at the province as the Ministry of Education has indicated schools need to reach 95 per cent enrolment before the board will see funding for seismic upgrades and new schools.

“The board is being put in a completely untenable position,” parent advocate Maggie Milne Martens told reporters after Monday evening’s decision.

She worries schools that still have a sizable student body will be closed, forcing students onto long bus rides and filling up schools to a point that so-called ‘excess space’ like music rooms and special learning rooms will have to be sacrificed.

“Preschools or daycares are using that space, so services that serve the community really augment the education that’s happening. You close that school, all those services, ESL services, counselling services, preschools, daycares, they will all be gone.”

The board will now enter five months of consultation with schools and communities with some trustees indicating they would like more conversations with the province as well.

Trustee Chair Mike Lombardi says there have been no decisions on which school could shut down.

“No schools have been identified and we have a very significant policy in Vancouver where there is a yearlong process where any school is closed. The earliest any school could close with our policies is June 2017.”

A report on the adopted recommendations will go to the Education Minister by the end of the month.

“So we’re now working towards a plan by 2030, to make all of our seismically upgraded schools fixed up so the kids can be in them in a safe manner and that we’ll also be able to secure money to build the new six schools in areas of projected growth. So I think it was a monumental decision by the board,” says Lombardi.

Though the board voted to adopt the recommendations, several trustees spoke against the closures.