The school board confirmed Tuesday evening that enrolment in Vancouver public schools is down more than expected, but funding from the provincial government means the decline shouldn’t affect operations.
“I know Surrey had their first reduction in many years and I don’t think they would have any of the cushions we have, so while they have [a] lower level of decline, they may have a bigger budget impact,” said school board chair Patti Bacchus.
The Ministry of Education provides funding protection for districts that lose more than one per cent of their students.
The Vancouver School Board, which serves 54,000 elementary and secondary students, projected a decline of 500 students. But enrolment has dropped by 788 pupils.
Bacchus said human resources held back on staffing so while this decline would otherwise mean the loss of three full-time teaching positions, no jobs will be lost.
The district has also lost 139 more adult education students than expected.
Bacchus didn’t know why the number of adult students decreased and said school board staff will review the decline. She’s concerned the board’s tighter restrictions on minimum class sizes means more cancelled classes and less access.
“What I’m hearing from some of the students is they wanted to take courses, they showed up and the course is cancelled and they, because of their own complications, couldn’t take the course at other times,” she said. “And that concerns me that we might be knocking people out of the system because of our inflexibility that’s budget related.”
Associate superintendent Scott Robinson is to work on tracking students who leave the public system.
Sexsmith seismic news
The call that’s due out next month for a proponent to seismically upgrade and operate the old Sexsmith elementary school will permit residential and office uses.
The broadening of permitted uses follows a second open house, held Oct. 10, on the use of the 1912/1913 heritage buildings on Ontario Street at West 59th Avenue. The open house was organized after a call for proposals in the spring attracted only one response that the school board rejected. That request asked for proposals for civic, cultural, community or education uses that excluded kindergarten to Grade 12 independent and private schools.
School board facility planner Anne Lee said more than 20 people, mostly neighbours, attended the latest open house. As in the past, roughly half of respondents support office and or residential uses.
If the second call for proposals is successful, the school board would hope to negotiate a lease agreement in early 2013, and then see the new user consult with the public and receive city approvals. The new user would complete the upgrades and occupy the building after summer 2013 when the new school is complete.
If the second call for proposals fails, the school board will consider what to do with the buildings, including demolition. A 2007 school board study estimated it would cost $13.2 million to seismically upgrade Sexsmith’s buildings to school standards and to retain exterior heritage character.