VSB releases preliminary list of schools that might be considered for closure

Media Release

Vancouver - (June 20, 2016) – As part of its long range facilities planning VSB has released a preliminary list of 12 schools that might be considered for closure before the start of the 2017-18 school year. As required by VSB policy and conforming to the School Act, this list is being published to give at least two months’ notice to affected schools that extensive consultation will begin if the Board decides to consider those schools for closure. 

Following the submission of the Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), where the public provided extensive input on priorities for school facilities, VSB’s facilities planners reviewed all 110 VSB schools based on the factors for consideration identified in the LRFP. Then, in collaboration with district educators, they examined the impact of a closure on educational programs, student needs and learning. This list of 10 elementary and two secondary schools is the result of that process.

“Trustees and staff spent several months listening to the community about long range facilities planning. We heard from the public about their willingness to consider tradeoffs to ensure we have safe schools, new schools and quality learning environments for all VSB students in the future,” said Mike Lombardi, Chair of the Vancouver School Board. “As we move forward with the LRFP trustees will examine this preliminary list of potential school closures. No decision has been made. We will consider information from staff, including a detailed report on each school they will develop this summer. After seeing that in September we will decide whether to proceed with any potential closures and, if so, begin significant consultation with affected communities in October and November before making any decisions.”

The detailed staff report on each school will include reviewing the community and social impacts of closures on schools with high levels of student vulnerability. Principals will assist in identifying students who would need extra support if their school underwent a change.

If trustees approve proceeding with the potential closure process for any schools in September, extensive consultations with affected communities would begin in early October. Information meetings, feedback sessions, and online feedback methods would be used to hear from the public about ways of mitigating the impacts of a school closure in their community.

Members of the public can learn more about VSB long range facilities planning and public consultations related to school closures at engage.vsb.bc.ca.


Preliminary list of schools that might be considered for closure

  • Queen Elizabeth Annex
  • Champlain Heights Annex
  • Tecumseh Annex
  • McBride Annex
  • Dr. A.R. Lord Elementary
  • Admiral Seymour Elementary
  • Graham D. Bruce Elementary
  • Sir Guy Carleton Elementary
  • Queen Alexandra Elementary
  • Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary
  • Britannia Secondary
  • Gladstone Secondary

Backgrounder – Process and Timing for Proposed Closures

Facilities planners reviewed all 110 VSB schools based on level one and two factors for consideration in closing schools as identified in the Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP). Those factors include:

  • Ability to accommodate students in one or two nearby school(s)
  • Building condition and deferred maintenance
  • Expediting the seismic mitigation program by using a closed school as swing space for temporary accommodation of students and staff from nearby schools set for seismic upgrades
  • Current enrolment and future projections
  • Assessment of walk distances, transportation routes and catchment sizes for newly created catchments
  • Geographical and site considerations, such as major roadways
  • Opportunities to consolidate communities and advocate for building a new school
  • Cost savings from not operating buildings that could be applied to alleviate projected 2017-18 budget shortfalls and educational programs
  • Education and social impacts on students and families, particularly where there are high concentrations of vulnerable students

In collaboration with district educators, staff further examined the impact on educational programs, student needs and learning.

This preliminary list of schools represents those where we have the ability to keep communities together as much as possible with fewer impacts on further change.

Staff will spend the summer reviewing and developing a detailed report on each school, which would include examining factors for vulnerable students at both a school and district level and identifying students who would need extra support if their school underwent a change.

If the trustees approve moving forward with the closure process for one or more schools on this list, extensive consultations with affected communities would begin in early October. Information meetings, feedback sessions, and online feedback methods would be used to hear from each school community advanced for closure consideration about ways of mitigating the impacts of a school closure in their community. Information will  be available at engage.vsb.bc.ca.

In December, following consideration of public consultation with affected communities, reports prepared by a third-party facilitator and staff information, trustees would decide whether school closures would move forward.

Trustees make any decision about whether closures will happen.

After consultation, if approved by the Board, the earliest any school closures would take effect is June 30, 2017 (for the 2017-18 school year).

Backgrounder – Temporary Accommodation

Temporary accommodation is when available space in a school or schools is used to accommodate staff and students whose school is undergoing seismic upgrading or replacement.

The use of temporary accommodation has proven to be an effective strategy as part of the implementation of several recent and current seismic projects.

In some cases, VSB may need to make use of entire school buildings in order to provide space for students and staff in schools undergoing construction. Excess space or capacity in schools with lower enrolment can also be used to accommodate students and staff whose schools are being upgraded. Different strategies will need to be used in combination to ensure schools can be upgraded quickly.

VSB is currently using two temporary accommodation sites (South Hill and Queen Elizabeth). As many as an additional 3,500 student seats may be required to implement the Seismic Mitigation Program timeline. This could result in the need for the equivalent of up to eight additional temporary accommodation sites (six elementary, two secondary).

The BC Ministry of Education is requiring districts to make use of existing surplus capacity to provide temporary accommodation.

In the event that an entire school site is needed for temporary accommodation, it would first need to be closed. A closed school which is being used to provide temporary accommodations would not count toward calculations of district capacity.

If a school is closed and then used for temporary accommodation, it can often house an entire school population during seismic upgrade. That site could be used many times for temporary accommodation as the seismic upgrading continues over the next 14 years.

Backgrounder – Long Range Facilities Plan

The Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) was approved by trustees on May 24, 2016 and updated the interim plan submitted in January 2016 to incorporate the results of extensive public consultation.

The updated plan included the following amendments:

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.
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
  •  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

 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
Since approval of the LRFP, staff have examined all 110 VSB schools through level one and two factors in the plan. A preliminary list of schools to be considered for possible closure will be presented to trustees at the June 20 public board meeting.
 
School communities must be given at least 60 days notice of potential consideration for closure in accordance with VSB policy (“Potential Consideration for Closure” http://www.vsb.bc.ca/district-policy/fl-r-school-closures-formerly-retirement-facilities).

Staff will develop an administrative report on each school examining further factors for consideration to present to trustees in September. At that point, trustees will decide whether any schools on the list will be considered for closure.
 
If trustees decide to consider closure, after notification to the school community, significant communication and consultation will take place in October and November, led by a third-party facilitator.
In December, trustees would consider consultation and staff reports before before deciding whether a school would close.

For more information visit:

engage.vsb.bc.ca

Fact Sheet – VSB costs related to maintenance

  • The average age of VSB schools is 73 years, with 50 schools older than 80 years.
  • Maintenance has been deferred for many years on VSB schools, leaving more than $700 million in outstanding maintenance costs for major building components such as roofs, fire alarm systems, heating systems, flooring, interior finishes, plumbing, lighting and exterior windows.
  • The average cost of deferred maintenance on VSB schools is nearly equal to half the cost of building a new replacement school.
  • In Vancouver 20 schools have been seismically upgraded so far and 69 require mitigation work, including five currently in construction, three in design development, 24 approved for feasibility studies and 37 that have not received approval to begin a feasibility study.
  • $62.5 million – 12.6% of VSB’s operating budget – goes on building operations and maintenance.
  • Among large BC school districts, Vancouver spends the most, more than $1,100 per student, on operations and maintenance.
  • Including staff, utilities, maintenance and custodial supply costs, each year the costs for running district facilities are, on average, $248,780 for an annex, $566,743 for an elementary school and $1,948,823 for a secondary school.
  • At this point, no decisions on closure have been made. If trustees decided to close a school, it would provide one-time savings in deferred maintenance costs of, on average, $1.9 million per annex, $3.9 million per elementary, and $16.9 million per secondary school.
  • If trustees decided to close a school, it would avoid one-time seismic upgrading costs of $8-16 million for an elementary school and $30-60 million for a secondary school.