24 Hours: Vancouver planned ahead for school closures

Post by Mike Klassen in


The Bartholomew Plan for Vancouver circa 1928 – click for larger

The following column ran in 24 Hours newspaper on Thursday, Dec. 9th. Big credit for the research on the Harland Bartholomew Plan for parks and school properties goes to Andy Yan of Bing Thom Architects.

The issue of school closures in Vancouver is one that has touched me personally, and it is a topic that I’m compelled to speak out upon.

I believe that parents all want the same thing – a safe and robust future for their child, and the best education they can afford. In my community we have faced the possible loss of a school, which currently is the lowest enrolled facility in the city with 65 kids at last count.

When our child first entered McBride Annex Elementary the enrolment was over 100 kids, but then it proceeded to drop year-by-year. I put a lot of personal effort into trying to “save” the school, even toiling in the garden beds watering flowers during the summer break so that it might attract parents of pre-schoolers.

Like many others, I’m disgusted with the process set out by the Vision Vancouver/COPE coalition school board for “consulting” on school closures. I’ve not seen an issue more crassly exploited by elected officials to whip up fear and confusion in our communities than this one.

While districts around the rest of the province are dealing with what to do about declining enrolment – closing schools in neighbourhoods where there are not enough kids – Vancouver continues to struggle with debt, program cuts and layoffs. Vision/COPE authorized a $30,000 citywide poll, which told them that 48% of citizens preferred school closures to cuts, and only 32% said to keep the schools.

In the end the Board ignored the results of their own survey and – lo and behold – put a moratorium on any decision until after the next election. It’s such a cynical move I hardly thought they could actually pull it off.

There are neighbourhoods in Vancouver like Yaletown that have overwhelming demand, yet the School Board can’t afford to expand where service is needed. The cost of educating a child in a low enrolled school is estimated to be as much as 50% higher per pupil!

Many Vancouverites are not aware that their city was planned to deal with demographic shifts, especially when it comes to schools. In 1928, urban planner Harland Bartholomew surveyed every inch within the Vancouver’s boundaries and mapped out exactly what properties should be set aside for schools.

Bartholomew knew the importance of small children to the growth and vitality of a city, and proposed that schools be located within a 10-minute walk from every doorstep. His brilliant master plan factored in the potential for “abandonment” of schools over time, and in fact a large number of schools within the district have been decommissioned in the decades since.

I can only speak about the experience of my neighbourhood but I know that if the McBride Annex closes, another better-attended facility meets that ten-minute walk requirement for families in our catchment.

Thanks to the foresight of Bartholomew’s plan, the city can resist the effects of low birth rates and an aging population. It also means that public schools remain in our midst, and our neighbourhoods can evolve.

- post by Mike


"Like many others, I’m disgusted with the process set out by the Vision Vancouver/COPE coalition school board for “consulting” on school closures. I’ve not seen an issue more crassly exploited by elected officials to whip up fear and confusion in our communities than this one."

Hmm. You completely miss the point. Why are school closing? Inadequate funding from the BC Liberal government. This is nothing new.

Maybe if you paused before you attack Vision and COPE, you should look into how the province's new funding formula is shortchanging school districts across the province. Do your research.

More NDP lies. Last year you and I spent over $7 Billion on the Ministry of Education, a new record. If that's inadequate how much more is needed and what other Ministries should have their budgets cut to pay for it?

Speaking of research, before you trot out BCTF talking points about the Liberals "shortchanging school districts" you should read the report from the Comptroller-General submitted last June (http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/pubs/2010-06_special_advisor_report.pdf).

The VSB suffers from "a potential conflict of interest on the part of a Trustee"; there is "a lack of trust, confidence and respect between the Board and district management"; they "have not demonstrated they have the management capacity to effectively govern or fulfill their duties under the Act"; it "does not have a long-term strategic plan"; it "(delays) decisions that would see the effective use of exicting or available resources"; due to their choices "annual operating costs now exceed revenues; it is now facing a structural deficit".

"The Board's current financial circumstances could have been avoided had the Board appropriately managed the resources it had in delivering its educational program"(pg.13).

Great to see The Bartholomew Plan for Vancouver. Fascinating document. We need this kind of thinking today. We can't let the city get locked into old plans and infrasturcture as it evolves, even if this means we need to close some schools. This does not mean that the Minitry of Education in Victoria is well run or rational. I don't know much about it, but the few hours I spend on the website and looking at how they develop policy and curriculum and the many problems with the funding formulas suggest a deeply dysfunctional organization. We certainly need to get rid of the current crop of Provincial Liberals, though it is hard to see the current NDP as an option. By the way, I reread the document presented by Landlord. I found it a self-serving and one sided piece of politically motivated junk. More evidence of dysfunction in Victoria.

What a beautiful map.

Speaking of politically-motivated junk.

The Ministry is irrational and dysfunctional, the Comptroller-General is one-sided and self-serving but you've spent a few hours gaining the on-line impression that everything is peachy at the VSB?

Yet another superficial and reactive analysis of a complex subject about which you have a lot to learn. Luckily no-one will ever place you in charge of a $7 Billion organization with tens of thousands of employees.

Sadly, much of the dysfunction has resulted from politicking by the union, and exploiting parents and kids in the process. The BC College of Teachers mess is evidence of that dysfunction http://bit.ly/htGjOf

@A L. Why on earth would we want to fund half-empty buildings?

Yes, it good to see discussion of Bartholomew Plan and a visual from it. The Plan was developed in the context of Vancouver's amalgamation with the municipalities of Point Grey and South Vancouver. As a defining document of our City's past developmentt the Plan should be covered in the school curriculum , but its application to present day civic policy and land use decisions is, to say the least, limited.
The "beautiful map" principally addresses the issue of rationalizing playground provision and supervision, which had previously been split between the three municipalities and , in this context, between schools and parks administrations. It is now hard to imagine how important this issue was in an era before publicly funded daycare.
Along with the siting of playgrounds shown on the map Bartholomew recommended the creation of a City "Supervisor of Playgrounds," a position which was subsequently established under the aegis of the Park Board, marking the beginning of a civic recreation administration (Park Board didn't add "Recreation" to its name until the mid 1950s).
The first Supervisor of Playgrounds was Ian (Jan) Eisenhardt who died just five years ago at the age of 98. He had a career in all levels of government really worth googling.
Can someone cite what the Bartholomew Plan has - if anything - to say about school closures, other than the rather cryptic reference in the map legend? I don't have a copy at hand to refer to. I do note, though, that one of the school sites marked on the map for closure would have served Yaletown today very well - if only the development patterns of the past two decades could have been anticipated in 1928!

Check out BCWineLover.com!

Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement