PV Vancouver Bureau
Amidst turmoil within the B.C. Liberals, the next round of the struggle over public education policy is expected to unfold shortly. Vancouver Board of Education trustees are scheduled to vote Dec. 14 on possible closures of five schools, after an in-depth public consultation process.
The hearings wound up on Nov. 10, after hundreds of parents, students, teachers and community members gave overwhelming support for keeping the schools open. Many presented strong arguments that closures would provide little net financial benefit to the Board, and place enormous burdens on poor and working class families.
On Nov. 12 – one of ten “school closure days” set by the Board’s 2010-11 budget as part of cost-saving measures – hundreds of public education supporters gathered at Premier Gordon Campbell’s constituency office to demand adequate funding for schools. Organized by APPLE-BC (Alliance of Parents and Partners to Lobby for Education), the rally was a powerful show of anger at the government’s underfunding tactics.
Meanwhile, trustees from the Coalition of Progressive Electors have introduced notices of motion designed to support neighbourhood schools in Vancouver.
Trustee Allan Wong called on the Board to “convene a meeting with the Vancouver City Council, Vancouver Park Board, Community Associations, Neighbourhood Houses, childcare providers, and any other relevant community service providers to develop strategies to encourage the public use of public space.”
Wong made it clear that COPE Trustees want to do everything they can to see Board properties remain public use spaces in the event of any changes to schools. “These are extraordinarily valuable public assets that have helped support neighbourhoods across Vancouver for decades,” said Wong. “We need to work with all community stakeholders and try as hard as possible to make sure these schools remain places that are publicly owned for the public benefit.”
Trustee Jane Bouey’s motion called on the Board to “develop a long‑term neighbourhood schools strategy in order to encourage neighbourhood attendance at local schools.” She stressed that the Board would need to make sure community groups were front and centre in helping to develop the strategy.
“We have amazing, healthy, and vibrant neighbourhood schools in every corner of Vancouver,” said Bouey. “The Board should be doing everything it can to help parents understand these are the perfect place for their children to learn: close by, with their neighbours, in a community they call home.”