VSB Attendees (this is from memory -- sorry if I've missed anyone):
? - Area Office
Brenda Ng - Secretary / Treasurer
Chris Kelly - Superintendent
Ken Denike - Chairman
Tom Grant - Associate Superintendent
? - Human Resources
Henry Ahking - Planning and Facilities
Craig Sidjak - Facilities Planner
Laurie Anderson - Associate Superintendent
The board gave a slide show of background information, including the trend of decreasing enrollment in Vancouver schools and the need for seismic upgrades. VSB facilities are under-utilized by 10,000 seats, about 7,000 of which would be elementary students. There are 41 students at Garibaldi out of a capacity of 165. Begbie and Nelson are due for seismic upgrades in 2009. Garibaldi is sufficiently sound seismically that is not slated for seismic work (if kept open) until 2015 or later. Following the board's presentation they opened the floor to questions. There were some excellent and passionate (OK, some were very angry) speakers on the side of keeping the school open (and no one from the audience, if memory serves, suggested the school be closed). The board's presentation will be made available on the the VSB website.
Notes from the question period
- Several in the community expressed dismay that the process time-line was so short (19 days from the public meeting to the final decision). Chris Kelly, Superintendent, pointed out that they were bound by the process time-line [as set in the VSB's policies and procedures].
- Someone suggested that Garibaldi be kept open to accommodate students displaced by the seismic upgrades at Nelson in 2009. Even if there is space at Nelson during the upgrade, Garibaldi might make for a better learning environment, away from the noise of the construction work.
- Many made the point that students are leaving the catchment due to the lack of daycare and preschool. We have identified independent preschool and daycare operators in the neighbourhood who would like to relocate their businesses at Garibaldi (in fact, when I contacted one such operator, she said she had already contacted the school board about using some of their excess space but was asked to wait to the end of the process). The school board said that they would have to charge more for renting the space than would be viable for the operators. However, this model is working at many other schools in Vancouver. Why not Garibaldi? We need to assess the cost and budgets of potential operators. I know one operator whose facility costs are about $2000/month.
- The board presented projections for the number of students expected to enroll at Garibaldi. They projected enrollment is 40-50 students annually over the next few years. However, the data have not included any recent surveys in the catchment. In last few five years we have noticed a large increase in the number of young families moving into the area and a large number of babies being born. The children are here. We need to serve the needs of the community by offering at Garibaldi the services that will keep them in the catchment. According to the VSB data, there are 437 elementary students living in the Nelson catchment (which includes Garibaldi) and 283 in-catchment students attending Nelson. This means that 154 students are leaving the catchment for other schools. If we consider the likely proportion that are in the Garibaldi grade range of K-4 (5 K-4 grades divided by 8 total grades) and splitting the remaining students over Nelson and Garibaldi, we get that there are potentially 47 students that would stay in the catchment, attend Garibaldi and be able to walk to school if the Garibaldi provided the services they are leaving for. That would bring the total enrollment at Garibaldi to 88. We believe the many babies being born to the new young families that have moved into the neighbourhood recently will increase these numbers greatly. Perhaps a survey is in order to back up our observations (yes, we're working on it).
- Another reason given for students not attending Garibaldi was that for the last three years the community has been told that the school would be closing. Parents, not wanting to submit their children to an unnecessary school change, enrolled their children elsewhere.
- Tom Grant was asked the whether the board considered attracting students back to Garibadli by offering French Immersion or other special programs. He answered no. Hastings School, with a capacity of 705 students, has long wait list for its French Immersion program. Why not serve that demand by offering French Immersion at Garibaldi?
- Kate Mulligan made the point (amongst many others) that special programs are available in other parts of the city. Why not ours? Why don't our children have equal access to special programs and be schooled in our neighbourhood?
- The school is used at almost 100% capacity when you consider the community education programs run by Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, the Pacific Immigration Resource Services (ESL for children and parents), the Canucks Family Education Centre and other events such as the community song circles. There are 80 additional people involved in the Frog Hollow progam alone. The board responded that the people attending these programs don't get counted when considering the enrollment in the school.
There are enough kids in the neighbourhood to keep Garibaldi open. We need to offer the services that will serve the children and the greater community, increase enrollment and offset facility costs, instead of forcing students to leave the catchment.
What you can do
- Contribute to the discussion in this blog and our forum. Give us your ideas and feedback on how to convince the trustees to keep Garibaldi open.
- Volunteer to help with distributing flyers, writing letters to the School Trustees, distributing surveys and collecting petition signatures or helping organize. See this link for more information.