School closure process suspended immediately

The Vancouver Board of Education has suspended its school closure process immediately.

The September 21 announcement by the Ministry of Education that it was removing the 95 per cent capacity utilization target set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the board in 2014 played a role in the board’s decision to suspend the closure process.

In the MOU, the board and ministry committed to achieving an average 95 per cent capacity utilization across the district through the provincially-funded Seismic Mitigation Program. The MOU was a key factor in the Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) and the school closure recommendations that flowed from it.

“The school closure process, including the development of the LRFP and administrative reports on schools, involved thousands of hours of staff time. The closure process was working on very tight timelines and the minister’s announcement about the removal of the 95 per cent requirement came too late to allow detailed consideration of the implications prior to the September 26 board meeting to move schools forward for public consultation. A new staff report may not be ready before decisions have to be made in December,” said VSB chairperson Mike Lombardi. “The decision of the Board means that in accordance with the VSB school closure policy, none of the 11 schools identified for consideration of closure will be closed by June 30, 2017.”

In addition to suspending the closure process, trustees are referring three recommendations from the acting superintendent to the facilities committee for consideration. They include developing a report recommending strategies for expediting and accelerating seismic upgrades using available school space. Another report recommending processes and timelines for updating the LRFP. And that there be a further review and report to the Board on policies related to school closures and other related matters.