In the wake of the Vancouver School Board’s surprise sacking BC’s Education Minister says the school closure process is off the table.
He says the replacement trustee will have her hands full with other jobs.
“If you’re a student, if you’re a parent in Vancouver, you do not need to be worried about school closures right now.”
That from Mike Bernier who says newly appointed Trustee Dianne Turner’s primary focus will be stabilizing the Vancouver School District.
“Her main goal is to bring stability to Vancouver, into the school district, and for the students… that’s where her focus is, her focus is not on a school closure process, it is not on the long range facilities plan right now.”
11 Vancouver schools were up for closure until their consultations were suspended on Oct. 3 following a VSB vote. Parents, students and advocates had been protesting and campaigning to keep the schools open for months.
“Even though they were going through a school closure process, I do want to question some of the decisions that the board was making that looked political rather than practical when it came to the finances of what they were trying to.”
As for the yet to be passed budget, over which the Board was ostensibly fired, Bernier says Turner hasn’t been given a deadline.
Turner will be solely responsible for crafting a new budget and long range facilities plan, giving her the final say on shuttering schools.
When asked what he’d do if she she did move to close any, Bernier refused to speculate.
Bernier also couldn’t say when we’ll see a WorkSafe report into into bullying allegations, with half a dozen senior staff still on leave.
Former VSB chair calls it a political move
The fired chair of the Vancouver School Board says after years of pressure, it’s unbelievable that the province has now backed off of school closures.
Mike Lombardi says the the move is political, with a provincial election just months away.
“Well I think a lot of people must be asking a lot of questions. We had three EY reports and the Minister day after day after day saying Vancouver needs to shut up to 37 schools, they’re using up a lot of money and spaces which are not required. And now he’s able to say ‘oh, we don’t need any schools closed, it’s off the table.'”
Are axed trustees considering provincial politics?
With public education shaping up to be a key election issue come May, some fired VSB Trustees aren’t ruling out a crack at provincial politics.
Vision Trustee Patti Bachhus says she’s keeping her options open, though says for now her eyes are squarely on the new Trustee.
“Right now I’m focused on how we’re going to keep the school board going forward and make sure parents are heard, the people of Vancouver have been disenfranchised, they have lost their elected representation on the school board.”
Green Trustee Janet Fraser also wouldn’t rule the idea out, though says it’s still too early to say.
“I have to take some time to figure out where I’m heading and what I want to do, how to keep a role in education, and I don’t want to rule anything out, but I don’t want to make a quick decision.”
Fired board chair Mike Lombardi on the other hand says he won’t throw his hat in the ring.