The decision to include Gladstone on the list of possible school closures left our community shocked, disappointed, and perplexed.
Given the success of the school, of which due credit must be given to the Vancouver board of education itself, it is a decision that simply makes no sense.
Gladstone is an extraordinary public school in East Vancouver recognized by a national magazine as a one of the “Top 10 schools in Canada” and by the Globe and Mail as a “gem hidden on the wrong side of Main Street”. Here are nine reasons why it must not be closed:
1. Gladstone has an internationally recognized robotics program that has transformed the lives of its students and the culture of the school. Gladstone has won the VEXX World Robotics World Championship on two occasions, an event with tens of thousands of competitors worldwide. Gladstone has led a robotics “revolution”, its success leading to the creation of robotics programs in many B.C. schools.
2. Gladstone is home to thelargest and best high school dance program in the city. An award-winning program with many trophies from competitions, Gladstone dance allows the students to express themselves in ways that words cannot. Gladstone also offers free dance education to 200-plus kids per year who cannot afford dance classes in studios, a unique program with ballet, tap, ballroom, Latin, contemporary, hip-hop, African, Bollywood, jazz, musical theatre, and much more. The dance studio was built by Gladstone’s incredible dance teacher, Mrs. Miller, as well as parents, students, and staff, largely on fundraising and community commitment. Its legacy is enormous,
3. Gladstone has one of the leading creative writing programs in B.C.—the Gladstone Review published every year demonstrates the quality of that program. If you get a hold of the 2016 version, read the prose and drawings of Ivy Tan, work that would not be out of place in the New Yorker or the Paris Review. And Gladstone was the most represented school in New Shoots, UBC creative writing’s anthology of work by Vancouver secondary school students.
4. Gladstone has more than a thousand students. No school of this size has ever been closed or even on a potential closure list in B.C. Enrollment is so large that students would have to be broken up into four other schools should it be closed. Gladstone is 11th out of 18 schools in Vancouver in terms of enrollment, larger than several West Side schools.
5. Gladstone reflects the absurdity of the provincial government’s 95 percent capacity rule. Six full classroom are home to adult education in Vancouver at the relocated site of the Main Street Education Centre. Seven classrooms at Gladstone are learning assistance programs. Gladstone is home to the largest individual education plan student population in Vancouver. These 13 classrooms are all jam-packed, every day. Yet, they are considered virtually empty by the B.C. Liberal education minister.
6. Gladstone is located near the site of one of the largest new developments in Vancouver: Westbank’s Kensington Gardens at Kingsway and Gladstone Street. The area is seeing a very significant increase in density as a result of the Norquay area plan, which will add thousands of housing units to the area. The Gladstone catchment area has at least 1,000 public students more than the majority of West Side schools. This will only increase as our push for family housing is realized.
7. Gladstone has a remarkable and inclusive culture. As Class of 2016 graduate Garry Fong puts it, “the togetherness/lack of cliques within the student body: there is a distinct lack of segregation within the student body. This applies to the grad classes of 2016 and 2017 and in the lower grades as well. What I mean is, there's no separation into groups such as jocks or nerds, everybody within a grade has friends of all kinds and interests, and this is my personal favourite thing about the school.”
8. There is mutual support at the school. As recent Gladstone graduate Debbie Liang notes, “I'm not just talking about the fabulous counselors supporting students. Everyone supports each other. We have a leadership program dedicated to helping out athletes. We have musical showcase that raises money for the fine arts and robotics program. We have the French department suggesting songs for dance performances. We have the science and foods department working together to raise money for a greenhouse that could be used by both. We have the Library Learning Commons hosting poetry-reciting events for English and other languages. We have the socials and athletic wings supporting mural club. We have a socials teacher supporting the improv club. We have a teacher that sponsors a business club, a school newspaper club, and more! At Gladstone, you're not limited to just excelling in one area; you can overlap in interests. Everyone works together.”
9. This remarkable schools is the result of the work of teachers, of staff, of administrators, or parents and of course of student over the past six decades. And the significant investment of tax dollars by the general public. To split it up in this way, perhaps the best secondary school I have ever seen, for short-term arbitrary reasons, makes no sense financially and makes no sense educationally.
Our public schools are something to be proud of. Gladstone is a great public school, something to be admired, to be emulated and absolutely not closed. Its working, profound diversity is a model for all of us—young and older.
Last week, Gladstone students held a flash mob as they campaigned to save their school and public education from a bad decision.The Gladstone community is determined to see that common sense prevails, and that the school remains a centre of East Vancouver life for generations to come.