Some Vancouver parent advisory councils waiting to be reimbursed with provincial government grants for money spent on school playgrounds will get less money than expected.
In one case, Thunderbird elementary, it’s a lot less—$5,700 instead of $27,000. A few schools, such as Jules Quesnel, will get larger grants. It had expected $10,000 but is slated to get the maximum provincial grant of $50,000.
The Ministry of Education announced in December that 13 Vancouver parent advisory councils would be reimbursed for money spent on school playgrounds. The ministry listed how much each would get in a press release, based on projected figures provided by school districts last fall.
The Vancouver school district has since revised its figures to, in some cases, reflect actual eligible playground supply and installation costs, and/or to reflect the actual amount the PAC contributed.
The overall pool of money going to Vancouver parent groups—$318,500—remains the same. The revised allotments are listed in an April 3 Vancouver school district committee report, which went before the board Monday.
Thunderbird elementary school’s grant dropped to $5,700 to meet ministry eligibility criteria that specified the money had to come from the PAC, not from money donated to the school, according to the Vancouver school district.
Janey Lee, a kindergarten teacher at Thunderbird, held summer workshops to raise money for the school’s new playground because parents in the East Side neighbourhood aren’t wealthy enough to contribute much towards expensive projects.
“Because the funds she raised didn’t go through the PAC, they don’t meet the [Ministry of Education] requirements to be reimbursed,” board chair Patti Bacchus told the Courier in an email.
Of the 13 PACs being reimbursed, eight are getting less than expected—some by only a few hundred dollars, others by thousands such as Thunderbird.
The VSB’s revised numbers indicate Norquay gets $12,625, Selkirk gets $37,418.62 , Renfrew gets $27,717.76, Mackenzie gets $19,183.93, Begbie gets $25,000, Tecumseh annex gets $25,272.50, and Moberly gets $25,196.43.
Two schools, Jamieson and Tyee elementary, are getting exactly what was stated—the maximum $50,000 grant, while three schools, including Jules Quesnel are getting more money the first indicated. Champlain Heights gets $11,089.75 and Southlands gets $24,401.53.
“From the VSB’s perspective it has been an evolving process. We’ve constantly been working to confirm the actual expenditure costs, as well as the PAC’s actual contribution amounts since the program started. In some cases, these numbers couldn’t be confirmed until early 2012,” VSB spokesperson Kurt Heinrich explained. “In most cases, it has worked out all right. However… there have been some cases, like Thunderbird, where there have been challenges in this process, particularly around what qualified as PAC contributions as opposed to contributions from other individuals/groups.”
The VSB placed close to $18,000 in a contingency fund, which may be used to deal with school concerns.
“The contingency fund will be used to deal with any outstanding issues that schools may have with respect to the revised grants. Thunderbird will likely submit a request to access some of this contingency, but other schools may as well,” Heinrich said. “The board will ultimately decide any use of the contingency.”
It’s unclear yet if any schools other than Thunderbird will be concerned by the revisions or if they’ll be satisfied by the new amounts.
On Monday, the board passed a motion, which will see Bacchus write a letter to the Minister of Education asking that playground funding allocations be determined at the local level “to ensure equity and transparency.” The letter will include the board’s concerns about “retroactive criteria being applied and the inequitable impact of decisions dictated by rules set in after the fact by the provincial government.”
The Board also directed staff to investigate, with negatively affected schools that received Ministry of Education playground grants, to confirm with the Ministry the reimbursement and definition of Parent Advisory Council (PAC) contribution. If the contingency fund isn’t enough to address shortfalls, the board may amend its bylaw and discuss shortfall with the ministry.
A Ministry of Education spokesperson said the dollar figures included in the ministry’s December press release were based on numbers school districts provided. He wasn’t sure why the VSB altered the allotments and he noted that the money had been released to the district and it’s up to the district to distribute it. He added that the school district was asked to contact the ministry about any errors or omissions regarding the grants in December and concerns would have been looked at.