One of the joys of building a company in Vancouver is the fact that you can recruit people by truthfully telling them that, compared to many other places like San Francisco, the public school system is great, providing a joyful experience that means your kids mostly go cheerfully to school in the morning, and come out feeling good about it all, with good academic outcomes as well.
As I’ve gotten involved in my neighborhood community, I’ve learned that my good feelings towards the school system have to be tempered by some threats to its DNA, most urgently because of what looks like bad real estate planning. It appears that, hopefully through nothing worse than bad planning, the various levels of government involved in schools have setup a set of deadlines, budgetary constraints and bureaucratic processes, which, if left unchallenged, will result in worse outcomes for all.
The full story is very complicated, as while the Vancouver School Board (VSB) runs the schools, the City of Vancouver owns the land, and the provincial government holds the purse. The long and short of it is that the VSB is following a process which will likely result in the demolition of dozens of older schools around Vancouver, with cheap bare-bones boxes replacing them, because it’s the cheap way to meet doubtfully rational seismic safety standards, especially given the funny accounting metrics used. In an era of significant provincial budget surpluses, if the “normal process” is left to play its course, Vancouver will end up with worse schools providing fewer services and a worse educational environment. You can read more about this bit here.
Dickens school is already slated for demolition and “rebuild”. My kids’ school, General Gordon, is next. The local high school, Kits High, is going to go through the same process, and the odds aren’t good. The list goes on.
What’s most galling about the whole thing is that too much happens with too little transparency and opportunity for the public to be involved. Public consultation meetings are misleadingly advertised, decisions are made with very little transparency, and the systems use to figure out efficiency seem ridiculous, biasing new cookie-cutter construction using optimistic costing models rather than proper stewardship of community assets. The sad thing is that there are a lot of parents and community members who could help the VSB secure additional funds, lobby government, and change the process to be plain smarter.