Adrian Dix: Nine good reasons to save Carleton elementary school in East Vancouver
The Vancouver school board has placed Sir Guy Carleton elementary school on its shortlist for possible closure as a direct result of the B.C. Liberal government’s underfunding of public education.
The five schools on the shortlist are all on Vancouver’s East side, all east of Knight Street. Carleton is by far the largest school being considered, its students representing almost half of the students affected by the proposed closure list.
No elementary school to our knowledge of Carleton’s size has ever been closed in B.C. For 114 years, the school has served our community—through depressions, recessions, and world wars—and there have always been sufficient resources for it to operate.
That’s why well over 6,000 people in our neighborhood have signed petitions telling the B.C. Liberal government and the Vancouver school board to keep open Carleton, and other affected schools such as Queen Alexandra, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Here are nine reasons why closing Carleton is a bad idea:
1. Carleton is a great public school that plays an important role in our community. Our public schools represent, along with Collingwood Neighborhood House, the major public services in the community. Carleton provides its 380 students with unique opportunities to learn.
2. Carleton is one of the oldest schools in British Columbia, in continuous use since 1896. There are 50 smaller elementary schools in Vancouver. The students have developed a remarkable sense of school spirit and community support, spearheading recent efforts to bring Green Thumb Theatre to the damaged kindergarten building—a project that this short list has put in jeopardy.
3. There is a good reason why schools with 380 students in them don’t close. The report suggests that the students will be divided into six different schools if Carleton is closed. However, it is clear that it will require seven or eight schools, exploding the school community into pieces.
4. The VSB’s report underlines the fact that Carleton’s enrolment will be roughly the same in 10 years as it is now: 375 students. This in spite of an unfavourable catchment area. The catchment area drawn by the VSB for Carleton contains only 254 students. The fact that so many students go to the school speaks well of the quality of education.
5. The B.C, government and the VSB have overstated the capacity of neighbouring schools. There is no room right now at either Weir or Grenfell, the two full elementary schools closest to Carleton. The capacity of Graham Bruce elementary school has been dramatically overstated.
6. The VSB notes in its school-closure report that Carleton was by far the most efficient public school on the previous preliminary closure list, based on operations and utilities costs, energy consumption, and maintenance costs. It is certainly one of the most efficient schools in Vancouver.
7. Carleton’s students have been regularly betrayed by the B.C. Liberal government. It is the highest ranking school in Vancouver in the 2004 report not to be seismically upgraded. The B.C. Liberal minister of education came to the school in March 2005 and announced at Carleton that the school would receive seismic-upgrading money. Then the B.C. Liberals reneged. In 2008 when the kindergarten building’s roof was damaged by vandals, the government refused to fulfill its obligation to repair the historic building. Now, five years after guaranteeing the long-term future of the school, the B.C. Liberal government is pressuring the VSB to close Carleton. The students and parents deserve better than this.
8. The B.C. Liberal government is essentially forcing our neighbourhood to pay the price for their decision to download costs onto school districts. All the schools on the closures short list are on the East Side, all east of Clark Drive and Knight Street. Schools with higher English-as-a-second-language and aboriginal populations are facing the brunt of the cuts. And Collingwood pays the biggest price with the closure of Carleton.
9. Carleton is the centre of our community. That’s why the Collingwood Business Improvement Association, parent advisory councils at neighboring schools, community groups, numerous local businesses, and thousands of community residents support Carleton. Vancouver city council plans to significantly increase density in the Norquay area. A significant new project is being planned for Boundary Road and Kingsway. A short-term decision to close schools will have negative long-term consequences for the community. To abandon a school and a site with enormous long-term value for minimal short-term savings makes no sense.
We need to save Carleton elementary school. I hope that members of the public please attend the public meetings on October 25 and November 2nd at Windermere secondary school and speak out to save Carleton for the 380 students at the school now, the tens of thousands of graduates who are part of the school’s history, and for generations to come.
Adrian Dix is the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway. His constituency includes Carleton elementary school.