Alumni rally to defend Vancouver alternative school

A downtown mini school is clinging to life as school board cuts threaten to reduce the number of City School teachers from two to one.

Located at King George secondary in the West End, City School is home to roughly 31 students who have chosen an alternative way to learn. Instead of shuffling from different classes, the Grade 10 to 12 students learn from two teachers in two classes with excursions to places like museums and theatres to supplement the standard high school curriculum.

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The proposed budget released by the Vancouver School Board plans to let go of one teacher. If the budget passes, the school “would end as we’ve known it,” said support staff Sal Robinson.  

“To lose one teacher — it means we all could only have one class. We can’t see how we can do three grades at one time and having a teacher who’s not a specialist in everything. We can’t figure out how that would work,” added Robinson.

After hearing about the proposed cuts, alumni Daniel Fazio started an online petition, which now has more than 600 signatures, calling for the protection of mini schools by removing the recommended cut from the proposed budget.

Fazio said that at City School he went from the verge of dropping out of high school to falling “in love with learning again,” thanks to a strong bond he formed with the teachers.

“I was in a regular high school, very unhappy, wasn’t doing very well . . . Everyone can relate to how difficult it is being a teenager,” Fazio said. “It gave me a lot of confidence that wasn’t there before because I lost it in a regular school system. Once I started learning at City School and was successful, it gave me a lot of confidence that I could bring into the world.”

Fazio doesn’t believe the cuts would help eliminate the school board’s deficit of $11.65 million.

“Everyone understands how tough it is for them to make these decisions. Nobody wants to cut this school program but this represents such a small fraction of their budget that they should leave it alone.”

In a statement to the Courier, Vision Vancouver trustee Cherie Payne said the reduction was proposed “because City School is facing declining enrolment,” and it’s an issue the trustees will be discussing.

Tamara Hurtado, mother of a City School student, worries that students would be marginalized if alternative programs no longer exists. In addition, she said the school provides “a lens into an alternative way of providing education.”

“The other teachers in King George see that and get ideas and stimulate them to think broader and how to deliver their set curriculum.”

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