Vancouver - (May 17, 2016) - The Vancouver School Board has released its updated Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), which builds on the interim plan released in January 2016, and incorporates results of the extensive public consultation program undertaken by VSB over the past three months.
The LRFP is a 14-year strategy that will guide ongoing decision-making for VSB's school facilities in areas such as seismic upgrades, replacement schools, new schools and potential school closures across the city. VSB staff will present the updated LRFP to the facilities committee on May 18. The report will then go to a public board meeting for trustees' approval on May 24.
Since February, VSB has been consulting with stakeholders and the public about factors in the interim LRFP. The consultation included: 1646 online surveys, 225 participants at public workshops, 350 at the Kingsgate Mall open house, 175 participants at stakeholder meetings and 115 at pop-up events. In addition, a random-sample telephone survey of 400 Vancouver residents was completed.
The majority of people expressed a desire to see action on seismic upgrading and facilities planning. Results of the telephone survey aligned with the online survey and workshop findings. Both showed support for some school closures if it would speed up seismic upgrades, benefit VSB programs and if a closed school could be used for community services.
The updated LRFP reflects revisions to the interim plan in response to feedback received through public consultation, and also includes further details on heritage retention, facility condition, and alternate use and development of VSB property. There is also further discussion on priorities for the Seismic Mitigation Program, as well as factors for consideration of closure of schools.
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- The Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) being presented to the Vancouver Board of Education Facilities Committee on May 18, 2016, updates the interim plan submitted in January 2016 to incorporate the results of extensive public consultation and to account for changing circumstances.
- The LRFP looks at facilities needs over the course of the seismic mitigation program, with the goal of getting students and staff into safe schools as soon as possible. It also examines how to get schools where they are needed now and for future enrolment projections.
- Since February, VSB has consulted with stakeholders and the public, providing information on the plan and seeking feedback on some of the criteria outlined in the interim LRFP. Specifically, VSB asked for feedback on factors to consider:
- Priority for seismic upgrading
- Identification of schools for potential closure
- Temporary accommodation during seismic upgrading
- Alternate use and development of school properties
- Potential sale of non-school properties
- Heritage planning
- During consultation, VSB heard from thousands of parents, stakeholders, students and Vancouver residents through a series of workshops, meetings, online survey and an Ipsos Reid telephone survey. The majority of people expressed a desire to see action on seismic upgrading and school facilities planning.
- At meetings and in the online survey, mostly made up of parents, stakeholders and students, the top priorities for schools were:
- innovative and supportive learning environments and
- seismically safe buildings
- A significant majority of those people said they would be supportive of closing schools if it meant:
- speeding up seismic upgrades
- building new schools in areas of growth
- combining two neighbouring schools to build a new school
- a closed school could be used for community services
- reducing VSB operating costs
- The Ipsos Reid poll, which was a random sample of Vancouver residents, aligned with the online survey and workshop findings. The top three priorities in the Ipsos poll were:
- Innovative and supportive learning environments
- Seismically safe buildings
- Specialized learning programs and community services
- The Ipsos poll found residents would support school closures if it means:
- Building or expanding schools in areas of growth
- The closed school could be used for community services
- It could provide accommodation during seismic construction
- It would speed up seismic upgrading of schools
- It would reduce VSB operating expenses
- In considering school closures, some people expressed concerns about
- the impacts on lower income families
- need for reasonable geographic access to schools
- need to work closely with the City of Vancouver in planning for future developments
- Three-quarters of respondents were supportive of VSB selling or developing non-school sites. More than three-quarters of respondents were also supportive of developing or selling a portion of school properties.
- The updated LRFP includes more information on the condition of school facilities, along with a number of strategies the board could implement to decrease deferred maintenance liability. Possible strategies include:
- Augmenting ministry funding for seismic upgrades to maximize the number of replacement schools built
- Augmenting ministry funding for seismic upgrades to address deferred maintenance on schools being seismically upgraded
- Closing schools with high levels of deferred maintenance
- VSB staff will present the updated LRFP to the facilities committee on May 18. The report will then go to a public board meeting for trustees' approval on May 24.
- Staff will spend the next month examining all VSB schools through the perspective of the LRFP and public feedback to determine schools that are a priority for seismic upgrading and schools that could be considered for potential closure. That list will be presented to trustees for consideration at the June 20 public board meeting.
- Any school community affected by potential closure would be given 60 days notice before extensive consultation with that community begins. In accordance with VSB policy ("Potential Consideration for Closure" http://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-policy/fl-r-school-closures-formerly-retirement-facilities) significant consultation would take place with each affected community before any decision would be made by Trustees.