Why didn't Vancouver close schools during the Games?

Post by Mike Klassen in ,


Kids playing at Canada's Northern House
Kids playing at an Inukshuk exhibit at Canada's Northern House

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that staging an Olympic Games in your city is a decision that brings on strong political reactions, both in support of the Games and opposed to them. While at this moment most of the public seem pretty sold on having the Olympics in Vancouver, and it's clear that the public has embraced them far beyond the organizers' expectations, there were many opponents including several elected officials. However, one political decision in hindsight that supporters of the Games had no control over was the influence of the Vancouver School Board.

A little Vancouver Politics 101 for many of you who are visiting here for the Games: we don't all get along all the time. Yes, I know it might seem hard to believe as we all sport our red and white shirts and jackets emblazoned with CANADA across our chest. Holding the Games was fraught with controversy, and many politicians lined up against the decision to hold the 2010 Games.

For example, on Vancouver's current governing city council, several have admitted they voted against the Games in a 2003 referendum. And amazingly, even current Mayor Gregor Robertson claims to not have bothered to vote in the referendum at all.

But the one group that felt they could get their political point across was Vancouver's elementary teacher's union (VESTA), who urged the Vancouver School Board to keep schools open during the Games. Secondary teachers, to their credit, wanted to keep the schools closed during the Games. The majority Vision Vancouver and COPE school board trustees voted to keep schools open, with only NPA trustee Ken Denike voting to close the schools.

In hindsight, does it seem like a good decision, or a bit of political spite? Many parents are taking these amazing sunny days to get their kids out of school to enjoy the spirit of the Games, and taking in some of the free events. Other parents took vacations and their family members with them.

According to Trustee Denike, it's been incredibly disruptive, and for many children and their families, a huge lost opportunity. "The kids over at Elsie Roy School next to LiveCity Yaletown have had a really tough time," says Denike. "The teachers up in West Vancouver who supported school closures are really seeing that they made the right decision."

For any city or jurisdiction in the future, I recommend that you pay heed to Vancouver's example, and don't let politics get in the way of your kids enjoying the Games.

- post by Mike


Hear, hear! Vancouver school children have really missed out on experiencing an amazing event! What a shame...

Correction: Vancouver school children are given the luxury of attending Olympic events during school hours. They can still attend after school and on weekends. Even if my kid was given time off during the Olympic games, I wouldn't be able to afford time off to accompany him. And let's not forget about the cost of the tickets to the various events. Sure it's a once in a life time event to attend the Olympics in your own city but I don't feel it is a compelling enough reason to give the kids the time off and cause lots of headaches for the parents who need to then deal with this situation.

Perhaps but I will point out that the families at the inner city school I work at have not been chomping at the bit to get their kids out though I have pointed some families towards the free events.
Oh and I can't forget that Vanoc provided four tickets to men's and women's hockey.

why should we cancel classes just for the olympics they're only a big deal to a small amount of people

North Shore schools have closed for Olympics and kids are on a two week break. It has worked out great!

As a Vancouver public high-school teacher, I agreed with my elementary colleagues. Parents aren't all wealthy enough to pay for daycare, let alone take time off for the Olympics. Those families who have event tickets, time off for livesites and pavilions, or want to take kids out of class for holidays, will do so, as they have done every year I've been teaching.

I know you folks at CityCaucus are conservatives and don't have a lot of time for unions or their supporters. The reason there are still decent public schools for kids to attend is that my union stands up to government, even "illegally" as some of your side called it.

Families can still enjoy the Olympics; many teachers are linking all sorts of lessons to this massive current event, and I'm sure that every school has a tv or computer with Games coverage running for key matches. So why complain when you can enjoy the games if you want to?

Even if some families don't have tickets or time off work, it is still good to have the Olympic break. The Olympic Break in West Vancouver is just Spring Break done early, with the same number of days that school is in session. The break allows more people to enjoy the games without missing school, and at the same time does not really change too much for families.

I have to agree with those that say keeping the schools open was the right decision. There are many of us that live in Vancouver that were not given the luxury of time off work during the Olympics - so if schools had closed, who would take care of the kids? In my case, we did not have an option - my daughter's preschool got shut down in January and will not reopen until April, since the community centre in which it was located was used for the "important" people attending the games. We simply could not afford time off or daycare, so were forced to change preschools. Yes, the Olympics are a once in a lifetime opportunity, but some of us do not care enough for them to have them impact our daily lives to that extent. As another poster pointed out, if parents felt it were that important for their kids to experience the games, they would take them out of school anyways!

@Kenny: The difference between the "Olympic Break" and Spring Break is the amount of other options available to working parents. During the regular Spring Break there are daycamps and the like. During the "Olympic Break", most things are closed down for the duration of the games, so places like community centres, Science World, etc. are not accessible.

I totally agree with Tracy, a lot of people still have to work during the olympics and would not have time to take their kids out to enjoy the festivities, unless their kid is a teenager and can go out on their own. As well as find means of child care if they are working during the games.

I've been going out and about almost everyday when I can to check out the free activities. A lot of them don't seem so family friendly if you ask me. Most of the pavilions are pretty boring with just tourism ads, expensive food, and some music to listen to. Not much for kids to do if you ask me. and the line ups are crazy!! Dude, when I was 8 I did not have patience to wait 4 hours for something.

And like someone else said, if the parents could afford to, and really wanted to let their kids experience the games, they'd let their kid play hookie a couple times.

Perhaps I should have made it clear – this is in lieu of spring break. Not another vacation, but a syncing up of the Games and spring break, which happens in March. This was the option put forward to the school board.

In other words, the time & expense you would devote to spring break, would be moved and not increased.

The comments about the shortcomings of the venues don't consider that most folks are just enjoying the celebrations and watching sport. Plus there's tons of kids activities at some of the venues, such as O Zone.

So, given that the Olympics are really a once-in-a-lifetime experience, what are all the sourpusses here going to be sour about the rest of their lives?


The one problem with this is, like for my current employment, our shift cycles revolve around the school year/spring break and we book time off accordingly.

For me, as my kids aren't in full time school, it wasn't as much of a concern.

But if this were 1st or 2nd grade? Well then, that's another story entirely. I'm prepared to have to deal with many days of child watching, they're not full time. But when they are, and my life shifts around that, this could be a major concern. Can you imagine if a huge shift like this were to happen what people with prior arrangements would have done? Or those who had kids turn school age between the time that this was started, if it had been planned many years past?

I know where you are coming from with the idea, and it comes from a good place. Logistically, though, it just doesn't work.

And as far as any suggestions of school field trips, I don't think so. Bringing my 2 kids downtown is enough of a stressor with the insane population. To try and bring an entire school full of kids there? Yikes.

@Mike: Once again, though, what about for those folks who work for employers that were not prepared to give employees time off during the Olympics? My company drew a very strict "NO TIME OFF" policy from day one. Spring Break - take as much time as you want!@ As for the venues having a ton of kid activities, that may be the case but it doesn't help if you have to wait in line for hours to get in - by the time you're through the gates the kids are having a melt down as they've been waiting so long! We have enjoyed hanging out in Robson Square, but haven't attempted anywhere that has a line longer than half an hour...just not worth it to us. I'm sure others will have a different take on this and see it as "complaining" or "whining" but I would prefer my child to be at school than having a meltdown in public!

Our VSB school took my daughter's class to LiveCity Yaletown as a field trip. It was an opportunity I could not have provided her as I must work. My son's class is doing an in depth unit on the various sports included in the Olympics. I am glad that school is in.

Before the olympics, we talked about house prices. And that's what was on most Vancouverites' minds when the olympics were proposed. Not the thrill of competition. Not welcoming the world. Just the rich homeowners getting richer and seeing the games at $250, $500 a ticket; the poor still renting and watching the games on TV. But we are Canadian and it turns out we all do want to welcome the world. We got swept up in the party, rich and poor, homeowners and renters, instead of half of us pouting and not showing up. Yes, I believe Cupe should have shut schools. Education is on pause. Kids are too tired. No time for homework. But they aren't missing out on the olympics. Nobody is. It's all around us and you can't help it. Last night the kids got to stay up to watch Canada win the gold in ice dance. It was worth it.

Moving the school spring break from March to a Feb. Spring/Olympic break just makes good sense for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Nothing works out 100 percent for everyone all the time...but we all still manage...

The decision to keep the schools open, and not adjust spring break to this time, was made by a school board opposed to the Olympics, and who were determined not to give school children the opportunity to take in the Games during the day. The daycare issue just does not hold water; parents have to find daycare for their children during Spring Break, whenever it occurs. By the numbers of children and families downtown recently, I am sure many of them are missing school to be part of the buzz. Voting to make a point? Pity.

All pros n cons aside, these school kids are also going to be paying off these Owelympic cost overruns so may as well let them experience it. Whatever that may be. Thank you.

Tommorow I am going back to work after a week vacation. I have my kids 11, 14, 14 were lucky to be at an age to be able to enjoy to games. i was lucky to get the time off. We did as much as possible, some go choices some not very entertaing choices. But then these are still choices. Can you tell your kid years later that you didn't what to take them to the olympics,see the fireworks,take apic with the coke bear, hold the olympic metals and zip across robon beacause they would be crying. I was quite little during expo 86 and there line ups there too.I think if you can tough out a 6 hour line up with your own kids(quality time)
then you can do anything else in life that takes patients to get a great experience.

I am a teacher. My school is ClOSED..and thank god!!!! I am not a glorified babysitting service.I didn't go to University and spent 45K to watch your child on days you feel like keeping them in school and take them out when you please.

Everyone has known since 2003 the Olympics were coming...that should be plenty of time to find childcare?! What does one do during the Spring Break?! It would just switch over--do what you would do normally in March Break, only in February! Not rocket science...

My colleagues in schools that are open are dealing with having a few kids in their class per day. How can you teach or continue the curriculum this way? I told them to continue it--and those parents who choose to take their kids out, too bad--your child will have to make up the work on their own time! It is once in a lifetime..go out and have fun!!! School isn't a babysitting service...

My two cents!!

I hope you're not an English teacher.

I give kudos to the Vancouver School Board for keeping schools open. Two reasons the VSB did good are: 1) The city didn't shut down. Thousands and thousands of parents have to work during the Olympics. Where would their kids go if school wasn't in session? A lot of parents rely on the schools as their daycare from 8:30am to 3:30pm. 2) Many of the "free stuff" during the Olympics are not suitable for children. I don't know about you, but elementary school kids have absolutely no patience to stand in line for hours to see advertising about a country or province, hear loud (and sometimes very unsuitable) music, and with their picky appetites turn their nose up at strange food not to mention they are too young to drink alcohol!

Simply put, the Olympics are not Disneyland, not by a long shot. The only things I would say are truly kid-friendly is the skating rink at Robson Square. Even the zip line has minimum requirements, and again, the lineups!

If parents want to have their kids experience something, they can do this on the weekends and just stroll around enjoying the atmosphere and if they have money would have bought tickets to some events.

That's enough an Olympic experience for children.

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