Open Letter to Gordon Campbell: Vancouver's Seismically Unsafe Schools



    VANCOUVER, Sept. 11 /CNW/ - A group of public school advocates in
Vancouver have sent an open letter to Gordon Campbell, calling upon the
premier to address his failed provincial school capital funding policy and the
stalled seismic upgrade program. This group of advocates is working under the
banner of "the Vancouver Public Education Project."
    Their open letter, which members of the public can add their names to
on-line at www.publiceducationproject.org, reads as follows:

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some 800 seismically substandard schools have been identified in BC. BC
parents were reminded just last May by the earthquake in Sichuan Province,
China of the tragic results when schools collapse.
    The Premier must address his government's failure to follow through on
his commitment to seismically upgrade all BC schools in 15 years. In
Vancouver, 17 high-risk schools were given top priority, with a promise to
complete seismic upgrades by 2008. To date, construction has yet to begin on
most and none are finished. Why must our children attend schools that are
often the most vulnerable buildings in our communities?
    Related to this issue, the Premier recently announced a Neighbourhoods of
Learning program to start in his own riding. This program exempts selected
schools from the provincial rules that limit both the size and cost of school
construction - or seismic reconstruction - based on the number of students
enrolled. The exemption is to allow for extra space to accommodate community
use of the school building - a well-established concept from which many school
communities could benefit. Clearly the Premier has recognized the urgency of
reviewing Provincial policy on educational facilities funding. However, the
fact that two of the six pilot schools are within the Premier's own riding
raises serious equity concerns. This is especially the case when you consider
that:

    
    -   177 BC public schools outside the Premier's constituency have been
        forced to close in the past 8 years.
    -   Provincial funding to existing community schools has been drastically
        cut.
    -   Other neighbourhoods and communities have had to build more modest
        new facilities.
    -   The pilot schools were selected without public consultation and
        without regard for the lengthy and costly public facilities review
        process undertaken by the Vancouver Board of Education
    -   Expanding the "Neighbourhoods of Learning" mandate province-wide and
        implementing other initiatives (publicly-funded early childhood
        programming) are laudable goals, but will have significant fiscal
        implications for Boards of Education, and
    -   If not properly funded, these initiatives may further derail the
        fundamental and critical task of making our public schools safe,
        effective, accessible learning environments for all K-12 school
        children.
    

    Providing funds to fix serious deficiencies in the existing school system
must be confirmed as a top priority.
    We urge Premier Campbell to demonstrate to BC parents and education
stakeholders how he intends to honour his 2005 promise to seismically upgrade
all at-risk public schools in BC by 2019 - with clear milestones, timelines,
accountability, annual budget allocations and reporting. We also expect that
before rolling out new initiatives such as the Neighbourhoods of Learning,
there be a clear commitment from government to provide the necessary
additional funds, with priorities set in a transparent and equitable manner
and proper consultation to ensure these are compatible with local priorities.
The Province needs to stop expecting Boards of education to do more with
shrinking dollars.

    Signed by

    Patti Bacchus is a former director of BC Society for Public Education and
coordinator of Vancouver Parents for Successful Inclusion and parent of two
children in Vancouver schools. She is a prospective Vision school board
candidate.
    Jane Bouey is former Vancouver school trustee, currently serves on the
Vancouver School Board's Pride Advisory Committee, and is a long time advocate
for an inclusive, quality, public education system. She is a prospective COPE
school board candidate.
    Bill Bargeman is Past President of Vancouver Secondary Teachers
Association. He is a prospective COPE school board candidate.
    Julianne Doctor is a former Director of the BC Society for Public
Education and is the current PAC chair and District Parent Advisory Council
representative at Vancouver Technical Secondary.
    Catherine Evans is a Director of the BC Society of Public Education and
long-time public education advocate. She is a prospective Vision city council
candidate.
    Glen Hansman is the President of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers
Association.
    Ruth Herman is a former Vancouver school trustee, chair of the COPE
Education Committee and long-time education activist.
    Barbara Laird is an advocate for people with developmental disabilities
and has served for 15 years on the Special Education Advisory Committee of the
Vancouver School Board.
    Helesia Luke is a Director of the BC Society for Public Education, parent
and founding leader of the Vancouver Save our Schools. She is a prospective
Vision school board candidate.
    Allison McDonald is a Director of the BC Society for Public Education,
and founding member of Vancouver Save our Schools.
    Adrienne Montani is the Provincial Coordinator of First Call: BC Child &
Youth Advocacy Coalition and a former Chair of the Vancouver School Board.
    Kelly Read is a member of the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council.
    Dawn Steele is a founding leader of Vancouver SOS, parent and long-time
advocate for special education.
    Kathy Whittam is a founding Director of the Charter for Public Education
Network and parent to a toddler and a teen.
    Allan Wong is a Vancouver school trustee. He is a prospective COPE school
board candidate.





For further information:

For further information: Dawn Steele, (604) 874-1416 or Helesia Luke,
(778) 858-0553 are speaking on behalf of the Vancouver Public Education
Project

Organization Profile

VESTA: VANCOUVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION

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