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East Van parents present 18K signatures against school closures

Last Updated Oct 18, 2016 at 3:57 pm PDT

Parents with kids at East Vancouver schools deliver a petition with more than 18,000 signatures against facility closures to Education Minister Mike Bernier (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Parents of kids at several East Vancouver schools are taking a stand against potential closures in their area and are worried what could happen after the BC Liberals dismissed the city’s entire board of trustees and appointed one person in their place.

The group of half a dozen parents delivered 18,342 signatures against closing schools to Education Minister Mike Bernier’s office Tuesday, a day after he dismissed all nine of the Vancouver School Board’s (VSB) trustees.

“Finally, the trustees were listening to us and our schools were stable. We had some certainty that the closure process was suspended,” mother Melanie Cheng says. “The trustees were just hours away from passing a balanced budget and then they were fired. We’re outraged that our school is now again at risk potentially of being closed and we need some certainty so that we can plan for the future of our kids.”

Cheng graduated from Graham Bruce Elementary, her two young sons are both at the school and she hopes with any luck, her daughter will go there one day. She says it’s been difficult to explain to them why they may not be able to go to the same school in the near future when she herself doesn’t understand why the schools need to close.

Judy Choi’s son Joshua loves computers and engineering, so despite living in Marpole, he opted to travel to Gladstone Secondary every day for their robotics program.

“When the closures started, he was really worried. He said ‘where will I study robotics if not at Gladstone?'” Choi says. “I’ve made a statement. I have to fight for my kid. I was never politically engaged before, but it’s like we’re all these mama bears and we want to defend our kids and their education.”

The parents hope the petition will give them the answers, closure and certainty they want.

The future of Vancouver schools is still in the air following Bernier’s dismissal of the VSB. The board was set to approve a budget they had previously rejected, including $20 million in cuts.

A draft copy of special adviser Peter Milburn’s VSB audit, which Bernier says he read on Saturday, also contributed to his decision to fire the board, the minister says.

The dismissal has divided trustees with some saying it did not come as a surprise and they respect the decision, while others criticized the move as heavy handed and undemocratic.