Fired Vancouver trustees say schools might yet be closed

Education Minister Mike Bernier has a different opinion

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      The sacking of the Vancouver school board has triggered new fears of school closures. Judy Choi, who earlier started a petition to save Gladstone secondary, related that she and other parents are worried.

      On Monday (October 17), Education Minister Mike Bernier fired the board and appointed former Delta school district superintendent Dianne Turner as official trustee.

      “Considering that it was the minister that appointed that one trustee, who cannot debate with another trustee about school closings, and the fact that she was not elected by me…I have no confidence that the minister has…my interest at heart,” Choi told the Straight in a phone interview.

      On October 3 the former board suspended the process of considering the possible shutting down of 11 schools, meaning there will be no closures in school year 2017-18, the earliest it could have happened based on the policy of the former board.

      In a teleconference with media on Tuesday (October 18), Bernier said parents should not worry. According to Bernier, Turner’s main task is to “bring stability” to the district, not to close schools.

      “Her comment to me is that school closures are not going to be considered anytime soon at all, because there’s other areas she needs to focus her attention on,” Bernier said.

      Janet Fraser of the Green Party of Vancouver was one of the trustees dismissed. “If the incoming trustee wants to change the school-closure policy…I presume they could do that…and they can make any decision they want,” Fraser told the Straight by phone.

      Fraser Ballantyne of the Non-Partisan Association was also fired. He noted by phone that with a projected budget shortfall of $15 million for the next school year, closing some schools might help.

      The alternative is to slash more services, although Ballantyne doubts that’s a good option, telling the Straight: “It’s just going to cut through the core way too much.”

      For the current school year, the district cut $21.8 million in education, maintenance, and administrative costs.