International Baccalaureate students at Churchill secondary hurt by Vancouver education budget cuts

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      Vancouver student Benson Peng dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer one day.

      Now in Grade 12, Peng has started applying with universities in Canada and abroad.

      As a student in the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, he is in an excellent position to land a spot in any post-secondary institution anywhere in the world.

      But Peng has to get his diploma first, and this is where he and other senior IB students at Churchill are starting to encounter challenges.

      The IB program used to be supported by a school staff person who comes to work three days a week.

      The staffer’s shift is now down to one visit a week.

      The reduction is one of several cuts to administration, maintenance, and education services that the district had to make for the 2016-2017 school year in order to address a $21.8 million budget shortfall.

      Graduating IB students need a transcript, their applications processed so they can take a globally-administered exam in May next year, and a lot of other requirements

      “My biggest fear is my university application is going to get compromised because of this,” Peng told the Straight at a Marpole café after school on Monday (October 31).

      According to Peng, paperwork is piling up, and other Grade 12 students are going to be similarly impacted.

      “The functionality of the IB program is severely hurt,” Peng said.

      With Peng was Kaylin Xu, a Grade 11 IB student at Churchill.

      Xu said that other activities, such as guiding the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF clubs, of which she is a leader, are also affected because other staff members now have more work to do.

      In addition to the IB program assistant, whose working days were reduced, other staff positions in Churchill were also slashed, according to Xu.

      “It’s falling apart, and so we’ve got to do something to stop it,” Xu told the Straight about the IB program’s situation.

      The Sir Winston Churchill School Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is aware of problems regarding the IB program. It has released a letter urging parents and students to take action.

      “As one of only two Vancouver public high schools to offer the full IB curriculum, the quality of our IB program at Churchill is now severely compromised,” the PAC stated in its letter.

      The 2016-2017 budget resulting from the $21.8 million in service cuts was not endorsed by a majority of Vancouver school board trustees.

      All nine trustees were fired by Education Minister Mike Bernier on October 17. Dianne Turner has been appointed official trustee for the Vancouver school district.

      Dismissed Vancouver school trustee Patti Bacchus is aware of what’s happening at Churchill.

      In a telephone interview, Bacchus noted that what may seem like “small cuts” to some are actually hurting students in Vancouver.

      “These students are coming forward to talk about how what on paper looks maybe fairly insignificant, ‘Oh well, this is less admin time’," she told the Straight. "The premier [Christy Clark] would call this low-hanging fruit, but these…staff people really play important roles in running schools."

      IB students from Churchill are scheduled to deliver a petition today to trustee Turner asking for the reinstatement of reduced shifts of their program assistant. Bacchus will be there to join them.