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.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
james green
I am a former school teacher with 20 years teaching experience and a former Delta School Trustee. Closing schools is one of the most regressive acts a government can consider. There are many innovative ways to keep schools open if budgets are short. These include public use rentals, shorter school days, job sharing for teachers, cuts to administrative wages ( principals, and vice principals) amalgation of blocks of schools under one principal as opposed to one principal for each school, sponsorship programs, cuts to adminstative costs across the board, and there are many more.
Closing schools cannot be acceptable in a society that should know that raising children to be solid people means having a strong and cohesive community and the neigbourhood school is part of part of what makes a children's community strong.
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HellSlayerAndy
a few points...

1) Adrian don't tell us, tell your friends and political soul mates; THEY decided to close East Side schools and ONLY East side schools because they KNOW they won't be affected politically at the polls because East Van voters are robots.

2) Carleton, Queen Alexandra, MacDonald esp. are all located on rather valuable and large corner lots in neighbourhoods undergoing development. I don't believe the the decision was 'educational' -- but a way for the City to sell off it's land to friendly East side developers to defray debt.
3) You fool no one, Dix
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Ray I
Closing schools simply moves teachers and students to new facilities. When revenue is down and people are already paying way too much property tax there is little choice unless the Board can find a way to generate revenue from non-tax sources.
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Scott Clark
Closing schools has real in the ground detrimental impact to the entire community. Since the BC Liberals have governed this province they have cut 191 schools. Untold millions of dollars have being cut , leaving the teachers to do much more with significantly fewer resources. Parents are stretched as they volunteer and fundraise to help their teachers help their children.

BC, relative to all other provinces spends the lowest amount on students education. Any increase in government funding is immediately off set by cost of living and maintenance of the school system. We have seen a steady increase in the size of the administration all the while teachers numbers reduced.

With pre kindergarden coming around next year, we will see that will not be enough spaces for those children. In the past 10 years we have seen a increase of children with English as a Second language, yet the resources our children nee, be it support staff or material continues to be cut.

Over the past 10 years, we have seen the urban Aboriginal student enrolment increase by 35%, and today it is 10% of the total student population in BC. At the same , we know these numbers will increase over several years, and the BC Liberals cut services in other Ministries that will add further burdens on these children and families. So much for helping the most challenged ethnic group in this Province,

The classroom in the 21st century today is further enriched with children with special needs and or gifted children. The ongoing cuts dramatically negatively impact the abiilties of teachers to meaningfully assist them as their time and resources are spread so thin.

We can spend $ 6 billion on the Winter Olympics and another $7 hundred million on a new roof for BC Place yet cannot, or will not help our children get the best education possible.

Let us not forget, BC has the highest child poverty rate in the country and a comprehensive education is the best way to offset intergenerational poverty. For every dollar invested in a children has at least a 6 dollar return.

Hopefully commonsense will prevail.
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james green
Ray you are not clear on this. Moving teachers is not a usual when we are laying teachers off already.
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Emmy
In response to a previous poster, it may be difficult to redevelop the parcel of land where Guy Carleton School sits as it contains approximately three heritage buildings.

As for the accusation of East Vancouver voters being "robots", I wish it were that simple. The demographic and language changes happening in east side neighbourhood means that fewer people are participating in democracy. For example, I understand that the area with the city's lowest voter turnout is near the intersection of Earles and Kingsway, definitely esconced in Vancouver's east side. If most of your residents work shift work, and have English as their second language, not many of them will vote or participate in the democratic process. Robotic no; unfair perhaps.

In order for change to occur, residents must speak aloud and voice their concerns to the powers that be. Here's the email for Vancouver city council: mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca.

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Carleton Grad
I think it is unfair that many of the schools shortlisted for closure are located within a relatively close proximity of one another. It upsets me to see that Carleton, of all places, is being shut down whereas smaller schools like Grenfell are not. Carleton is not only a home for its many students, it is a historical landmark for the Collingwood community; Collingwood Days, for example, has been hosted there for years now. The school is also in a prime location- surrounded by neighborhoods and homes. Carleton deserves better than this, and so do the students. In any case, what will happen to the buildings if the school closes? Surely the government can't approve of such historic landmarks being torn down...The kindergarden building alone is over 100 years old. It holds so much history that it should be repaired and upkept, not forgotten about as it has been in the past while. It is an insult to teachers, alumni, parents, and most of all students, closing the school down. Carleton has plenty of space for more children- a great alternative for small schools to be shut down and Carleton to house everyone. It is not only a school, but a home. It should be kept.
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glen p robbins
Here is the analysis I would like to see - coming from a family of school teachers - (a pollster, a nurse, and an alcohol and drug counsellor), what is the cost of closing schools with empty spaces now to match lower enrollment vs growing school age children demographic where these spaces we propose to close - will need to be reopened?

I was with a friend and political associate who grows trees for a living.
He has a significant operation and he told me last night that the operations that cut people and cut back as silviculture demands decreased - are finding it difficult to make a comeback as more contracts come forward - while he retooled reinvested - kept his people and is ready, willing and able to grow NOW.

Can we apply that example to the school closure debate Mr. Dix?
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sandy guan
hi dear everyone my anme is sandy guan and im a former student at carleton and i want to save this school because it means alot to me it's not just about closing down our school it's about what do all the other kids do without there teachers or parenst moving one place to another well im in grade 8 now i just graduated this year carleton elementary and what do we do without our old school can we still be able to visit it or not SAVE OUR SCHOOL WE ARE THE CARLETON FAMILY AND WE BELONG TO THIS PLACE BECUZ IN THIS CATCHMENT AREA WE STAND UP AND BELIEVE IN OURSELVES
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Janet O'Leary
I thought you were well-spoken at the first event! Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness around this topic and your active involvement! I am amazed at your energy toward our community. Do you know any millionaires who would come to the rescue? How would we find people to sponsor? I have misplaced my letter for the moment with which to give feedback to the Vancouver School Board. Anyone have it handy?
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