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Richmond School Board votes to halt school closures

Last Updated Oct 16, 2016 at 4:26 am PST

Students and parents in Richmond attend a special school board vote to suspend the closure of three schools (Stephanie Froese, NEWS 1130 photo)

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) – The closure of three Richmond elementary schools has been stopped following a special board meeting Tuesday night.

Parents and students fighting to keep their schools packed into the auditorium of Richmond Secondary School.

After months of contentious public meetings and consultations, a vote to suspend the school closure process passed unanimously and trustees were given a standing ovation.

The division was in the late stages of the closure process, with Daniel Woodward Elementary, McKay Elementary, and Alfred B. Dixon Elementary all slated to close as early as next fall. The closures were an effort to meet the province’s enrollment requirements for seismic funding.

Trustee Donna Sargent says the decision to suspend the closure process leans on a published letter from local MLA’s stating the province has an additional $560 million allocated for high-risk seismic projects.

“We have it in a newspaper in writing that, don’t worry, all schools will be seismically replaced.”

Kelly Green is a parent advocate and founder of Richmond Schools Stand United and has organized several rallies to bring attention to her districtès issues.

“We are very much making the government uncomfortable. They don’t make announcements for seismic funding unless they are made uncomfortable and this is a government that does not put a priority on education so the fact that we are standing here today with a commitment for seismic funding I think is a very important step.”

Green says parents believe that that school closure process is a symptom of an underfunded education system.

“It’s not sustainable for us to keep making cuts. It is impossible for us to deliver education as mandated by the provincial government. There needs to be more money for adequate services to be deployed into schools. Parents aren’t asking for the stars and the moon. We’re asking for an adequate, good, basic education for tomorrow’s citizens.”

The Richmond School Board’s 2017-2016 budget process gets underway in a few months and trustees says there will once again be a deficit.

Trustees and parents are urging each other to lobby leadership and various levels of government for more funding ahead of the 2017 Provincial Election.