What if Garibaldi annex on Vancouver's East Side enrolled only kindergarten students but also included a daycare and a preschool.
Don't panic, this isn't a school board proposal, but an attempt at a concrete, albeit hypothetical, example of how the district could "repurpose" a school with depleted enrolment to ensure it remains a public asset.
How to "repurpose" schools, as the district calls it, is one of the major topics being raised at public consultation sessions stemming from the VSB's recently released sectoral review of its schools and services called Our Schools, Our Programs, Our Future. The review, born out of the 2010 school closure debate, examined issues such as the need for seismic upgrades at many of Vancouver's aging schools, the demand for different schools and programs, and the district's declining enrolment, which translates to 8,442 empty seats or 340 empty classrooms.
The report was unveiled in late March and the district is seeking reaction through three meetings scheduled for this week and next week. Deputy Superintendent Jordan Tinney hopes to generate discussion by raising hypothetical scenarios such as one dealing with Garibaldi and its neighbouring schools.
Other areas of discussion could include looking at possibilities for the site of the new International Village school.
"It's an extremely small footprint for a school. We haven't designed a school there yet. What might that look like? We know that daycare and early learning are at a huge premium in the downtown core, so is there some way that the district and the city can work together to integrate these so they're part of one?" said Tinney, adding that the VSB needs to take a long-term view of planning. "The other piece is repurposing in a way that's sustainable. This just can't be a few-years tie over. It needs to be something that can last so we don't end up going back to the community in two, three or four years."
School sites aren't the only subjects up for debate-discussions could focus on whether the district should draw up long-term leases for its non-school sites to generate revenue- for example moving district learning services from the school board office on Broadway to vacant space in a school and leasing out that entire floor.
Tinney acknowledges the sectoral review is a complicated report that's packed with data and considerations for the future.
"[But consultation is] really that concept of thinking outside the box in terms of how does the public want us to provide stewardship of public land? What we do know is if we call the public out to have a conversation about school closure, we know what the response is going to be," he said. "But we don't think we've really talked to the public about what if it isn't a closure? What other possibilities do you want us to explore? The reason it's so complicated is because there are a lot of possibilities and what does it mean to provide moral stewardship of public lands for the next 100 years because we have a lot of land, a lot of public buildings."
The VSB's three Our Future: Community Consultation sessions started May 8 at Eric Hamber (which took place after the Courier's print deadline). Another session is scheduled at Kitsilano May 9 and a third at Britannia May 15 at 6: 30 p.m.
A staff report to the board will be completed either by the end of May or the end of June.
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