A new Vancouver School Board report is recommending up to 21 schools be closed or re-purposed in order to meet the provincial government’s targets for funding seismic upgrades.
The report, which was released last night and calls for 11 or 12 elementary schools and one secondary school in Vancouver to be shut down, has yet to be approved by trustees.
Also included in the report is the repurposing of another eight schools. Repurposing a school would mean local enrolment would be closed and it would be used by students whose original school is being seismically upgraded.
In Vancouver school enrolment continues to slide as the high cost of living drives families away to places like Surrey, which is struggling to handle the influx of students.
Currently, Vancouver schools are sitting at a little over 84 per cent utilization. In June 2015, an independent review of the Vancouver Board of Education’s (VBE) finances found there was no reason for them to be in debt. And it also pointed to the fact that there are more than 10,000 empty seats in the district and recommended an “aggressive asset rationalization approach” that recommended up to 19 schools closed.
WATCH: Vancouver School Board Chair Mike Lombardi talks about the report
“What we want to do is get our schools upgraded so that we can provide safe environments for our kids,” said VSB chair Mike Lombardi.
“The minister asked for the report. He wanted a report that showed how we can get to 95 per cent capacity utilization in our schools.”
Lombardi says there will be lots of dialogue and input from parents along the way.
“This is a living plan,” he says. “It will be updated on an annual basis, taking into account new developments, zoning and enrollment projections, so we will be able to fine-tune it to actually move forward towards getting our schools upgraded.”
The VSB report does not have a timeline and has not indicated which schools should be closed or repurposed but it does outline the criteria.
WATCH: Vancouver School Board trustee Patti Bacchus explains the repercussions of the report
The criteria will include low enrolment and projected growth; proximity to and space in nearby schools, seismic risk, high deferred maintenance and the potential for the site to generate income.
The trustees are set to vote on the report on Jan. 25.
The report has to be submitted to the ministry of education by the end of the month.
Read the full report here:
– with files from Amy Judd