In one of Vancouver’s richest neighbourhoods where parents presumably can afford private education for their children, many support their public school.
Research carried out by the Vancouver School Board in 2012 for its Our Future report reveals that most of the nearly 500 students who attend Shaughnessy elementary hail from that neighbourhood. Only a sprinkling of students cross boundaries to attend the stately red brick school west of Granville Street and south of King Edward Avenue.
“Access to education is a right and we support it in order to ensure the standards remain high,” Shaughnessy Parent Advisory Council co-chair Cindy Hum told the Courier in an email. “Shaughnessy parent involvement is quite high because parents care about their children’s education.”
The principal of Shaughnessy elementary, Erin Gavin, believes parents send their children to this school because doing so is convenient and they believe in public education. “We’ve got parents here who were students at this school… They want their children at the same school,” she said. “We get families who come here from private school, who, for economic or philosophical reasons they decide that whatever is happening at the private school is not meeting their family’s needs.”
Shaughnessy elementary is situated near private schools York House for girls and Vancouver College for boys. Gavin noted the catchment area for the school stretches from Granville to Blenheim streets and West 16th to 33rd avenues. Most students hail from a “more privileged background.” “We have lots of students who are renters,” Gavin added. “We have [a few] families that we provided Christmas hampers for.”
According to Shaughnessy’s 2012-13 school plan, approximately 60 per cent of students were born in Canada with the remainder originating mostly from Asian countries. Fifty per cent of students speak English at home, followed by Chinese and Korean. Approximately 30 per cent of the school’s students receive English as a second language support.
Gavin previously worked on the East Side for 12 years. The biggest difference at Shaughnessy is the ability of parents to raise money. According to minutes from an October 2011 PAC meeting, Shaughnessy parents raised more than $95,000 in 2011 and $111,206 in 2010. The bulk of money was donated by parents and raised through special lunch days. Typical expenditures include classroom, library and art supplies and school performances.
School board chair Patti Bacchus said there’s no consistent way of tracking how much each PAC raises. Some inner city schools draw sizeable donations from charities. Based on charitable tax receipts issued during the last school year, the average amount of money donated per elementary student in Vancouver varied little from East to West Side. But Bacchus conceded $95,000 “sounds very much on the high side.”
Quilchena elementary is the other public school in Shaughnessy. Students who learn in English are from the surrounding neighbourhood. French immersion students come from the immediate area, south to the Fraser River and east to Main Street.