VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An ultimatum issued by the BC Ministry of Education has parents in Vancouver angry and worried about the safety of their children. The provincial government has told the Vancouver School Board it will not fund any more seismic upgrades unless it agrees to close schools.
The province has said to all large school boards seismic upgrading won’t happen until it gets capacity up to 95 per cent. In Vancouver, schools are about 85% full. A staff report recommends right sizing some and closing several others.
Parents feel the provincial government is treading into dangerous territory by using safety as a negotiating tool with the board. Dr. Farah Shroff is the 1st Vice President of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and a professor with UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. She says reaction in the community has been heated. “One of my friends said ‘there’s a special place in hell for politicians who don’t prioritize the lives of children.’ This is a very dangerous move. We could have a big earthquake here any day now. We know that our seismic experts have told us that in the next 100 years, we’re going to have a really big earthquake. Do we want to see dead children when that earthquake comes?”
Dr. Shroff sees this as a strategy on the province’s part to meet its latest promise to have seismic upgrades done by 2030. It’s easier to just close high-risk schools than pay to have them upgraded.
Dr. Shroff also takes issue with running schools at 95 per cent. She says getting capacity to 95 per cent will mean schools lose things like music rooms, which is in contravention of the ministry’s education plan. “The new education plan talks about educating our students for the future economy, being good team players, being good communicators, being creative. So in fact, we all of these spaces in our schools for our children to be creative, to learn music and all of these wonderful creative things there’s a big contradiction there.”
The VSB will vote on the plan on January 25th.