Vancouver school closures may start in 2017

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      There’s one more school year left before Vancouver likely begins shutting down schools.

      Vancouver school board chair Mike Lombardi has written to parents how the process will be undertaken.

      Based on a long-range facilities plan approved by the board on May 24 this year, up to 21 schools could be closed by 2030.

      These include Laurier Annex, Maquinna Annex, and Henderson Annex, which will not have students in September this year for school year 2016-2017.

      These closures are part of steps to be taken by the board to increase the utilization rate of the district’s school capacity to 95 percent.

      That’s the target it has to meet in order to get money from the B.C. provincial government for seismic upgrades of schools.

      In his letter, Lombardi informed parents that the board will receive a preliminary list of schools to be considered for closure at its meeting on Monday (June 20).

      Staff will then prepare a report that will be discussed by school trustees in September. The board will decide which schools will be considered for closure.

      Public consultations will be held in October and November. In December, the board will determine is a school will be shuttered.

      Lombardi told parents that the “earliest possible school closure … would be for the 2017-18 school year”.

      With its current enrolment of 50,387 students, Vancouver is using its capacity at a rate of 85 percent.

      Under its long-range facilities, the district hopes to achieve a utilization rate of 95 percent through a number of measures.

      One is through increased enrolment. The other is right-sizing schools, which involves modifying the capacity of schools to match projected enrollment.

      Another is the repurposing of schools to serve as temporary facilities for students at schools where seismic upgrades are being done. This means possibly closing eight school (six elementary and two secondary) for temporary accommodations.

      In addition, new schools will be opened in areas with significant population growth.

      According to the plan, this combination of enrolment growth, temporary accommodations, right-sizing schools, and opening new schools may increase the district’s capacity utilization rate from 84.6 percent to 86.6 percent.

      This is where other school closures come in.

      The plan notes that unless enrolment growth and capacity reductions are greater than forecast, further cuts in capacity equivalent to 5,167 student seats may be needed to achieve the 95 percent target.

      This means potentially closing down 13 schools (12 elementary and one secondary).

      Vancouver has 110 operating schools.