Parents of kids attending East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith Elementary are worried about their families being split up after seeing the plans for seismic upgrades.
The proposal would render the school safe in the case of an earthquake, but could potentially see families split as kids are divided and moved to two different schools during construction.
“We don’t want our kids split up, we’re worried about the impacts, we’re worried about future impacts.”
PAC co-chair Eric Seto says parents had hoped to get an entirely new school which would have been both safe and modern.
But he says the province has changed the rules, and now they’ll just get the seismic work.
“Originally I don’t think parents were duly concerned because we were able to stay in the old school while the new school is being built, but there’s a relocation possibility that’s announced. Even though we’ve provided feedback that we’d like to keep our school community together, we feel our voice wasn’t heard.”
Seto has two kids attending the school and says he’s worried about how the split might cause anxiety among students.
And he adds it would also mean an end to before and after-school care programs that many parents rely on, along with student “buddy” programs that provide mentorship and help kids learn.
Question of value
On top of upsetting the kids, Seto says the upgrade doesn’t make business sense.
The 60-year-old school is getting a $10-million seismic retrofit, which he says will do nothing for the building’s outdated mechanical and electrical systems and technology.
Under the proposed plan, the school would be rendered “life-safe” in the case of a quake, but wouldn’t be usable afterwards.
A new school would cost $14-million.
That’s got parents like Lynelle Lam upset.
“As a parent, as a taxpayer it just doesn’t seem to make sense. I feel like we are being stuck and we don’t know what happened after we provided input…and here it is…something is missing.”
But the VSB says the project makes financial sense. Students would be split between MacCorkindale and Champlain Heights elementary schools, both of which are enrolled to less than half their capacity.
Comparison of seismic retrofit vs. replacement options
Officials weigh in
The school’s trustee liaison Patti Bacchus says she agrees with parents that the splitting up the school will be incredibly disruptive.
“It doesn’t make much sense from my perspective to pour over $10-million into a school that is old, out of date, needs a lot of other work, and not do any of that other work.”
She says while the school was waiting for its turn to be upgraded, the province changed it’s funding criteria – and that if work had begun earlier the school would have been replaced.
Board Chair Fraser Ballentyne disagrees. He says priority one is a safe school, and that relocating students has worked well in other cases.
“That experience has helped, I believe, establish a good practice around sharing space and maintaining a sense of school culture and community – I don’t think that’s going to be destroyed. I think parents are getting a little ahead of themselves.”
The NPA trustee says the two schools’ students will be relocated to are only ten minutes apart, which helps keep the school community together.
Google Maps lists the walking distance between MacCorkindale and Champlain Heights as between 15 and 20 minutes.
Suzanne Anton, who is the MLA for the riding, says she agrees with reports that say lower-capacity schools should be closed so the money can be better used elsewhere.
“They are of course questioning why would you keep open a school with very few kids in it when that money could be better deployed around the city?”
She adds there’s been no formal announcement for plans at Kingsford-Smith.