The Vancouver School Board approved their Interim Long Range Facilities Plan on Monday that includes, among other things, closing up to 13 elementary and high schools in the city.
The provincial government stipulated that classrooms must be at 95% capacity in order to receive funding for much needed seismic upgrades. As many as 69 schools in Vancouver are considered very high risk, meaning there would be widespread structural failure in the event of even a moderate earthquake.
Vancouver Board of Education Trustee Patti Bacchus told Vancity Buzz last week their hands are tied.
“While they promised 10 years ago to seismically upgrade all at-risk schools, they’ve made it increasingly difficult for us to get that funding,” Bacchus said. “Essentially they’ve frozen the funding despite the fact we have dozens of extremely high risk buildings.”
The VSB will spend the next month getting information out to the public about their interim plan before beginning consultations in late February, helping to inform a final plan that will be sent to the Ministry in June.
The interim report also requires “repurposing” an additional eight schools on top of the possible closures. Bacchus said this refers to the use of portable classrooms, which will no longer be funded by the government while upgrades are occurring. Instead, schools will have to rely on current inventory to accommodate construction.
“They consider in many cases things like elementary school art rooms and music rooms vacant. They count adult ed programs as empty seats,” said Bacchus. “We’re going to run into some real challenges.”
Bacchus tweeted Monday night that it was a tough decision for the board to make.
Tough decision tonight at VSB. We beed to get students& staff into safe buildings ASAP but govt needs to rethink 95 % capacity demand.
— Patti Bacchus (@pattibacchus) January 26, 2016
The Interim Long Range Facilities Plan notes enrolment will increase by 1% or 550 students over the next 15 years.
The Vancouver School Board has until 2030 to get classrooms up to 95% capacity.