Stop the Vancouver School Board from Changing Elementary School Catchment Boundaries

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Many more families, not enough schools...

One of the biggest issues that Vancouver families with Kindergarten-aged children are facing right now is that there just aren’t enough neighbourhood schools for the number of children trying to get in.  This is particularly the case in downtown Vancouver and surrounding areas where scores of new residential developments have popped up over the years, adding many more families into the communities; yet there have not been enough new schools built to accommodate the children.  This has caused extreme enrolment pressure on local schools that the Vancouver School Board is having tremendous difficulty in trying to meet.  

Changing school catchment boundaries, in the absence of new schools, is NOT the answer

Unable to build new schools or increase the capacity of existing schools fast enough to keep up with demand, the VSB has recently decided to propose school catchment boundary changes that aim to “better balance the student population with school capacity”.  At first glance it seems to make sense — carve up large swathes of homes and designate them away from their nearest school to another school that has larger capacity.  But unfortunately, these proposed changes will not resolve the underlying demand-supply imbalance and cause far more harm than good.

Families that live one or two blocks away from their nearest school and caught in the proposed catchment change will have the rug pulled out from under them. They will suddenly be faced with the prospect of never being able to attend the school that they see every single day and may have for years pictured their kids attending. They will become outsiders — torn from the fabric of their own community — because families whose kids go to the same schools tend to come together while families with kids going to different schools tend to drift apart.

Yet new high-rise developments that are popping up, or are yet to be built, get to stay in the catchments.  In fact, new families moving into these developments will apply much more pressure on enrolment at the neighbourhood schools than the displaced families that have resided in the area for years, since newer buildings have much more capacity than older ones.  An example is the construction of the new Vancouver House at 1480 Howe St., a 600-unit behemoth slated for completion later in 2018.  The number of units in this single complex is twice the number of units that the VSB is trying to displace in the proposed Yaletown school catchment change.  

Make developers and the VSB Planning Division accountable, not existing residents that have lived in the area for years...

We believe that no matter how the VSB tries to change school catchment boundaries, all it will achieve is the destruction of once close-knit communities and the displacement of families that have made the catchment location a large part of the reason they chose to live where they are. 

Instead, the VSB and City of Vancouver should focus on the developers that are directly responsible for increasing densification of certain neighbourhoods that is having such an immense impact on local schools.  Developers must not be able to build massive new residential buildings without also contributing the complementary infrastructures, such as schools, that will help new and existing residents alike thrive in these neighbourhoods.  Alternatively, new developments should not be included in existing school catchments where the schools are already unable to handle demand from existing residents.

To be clear, we believe that the VSB is trying its best to address the ever-growing demand for schools.  We are sure that if VSB planners could have their way (and had unlimited resources at their disposal) that there would be a new school built every four blocks in the downtown area.  But right now, they are looking in the wrong place for a solution.  For existing families that are struggling to get their kids into the local school, being placed at a different school temporarily is more preferable than to be told that they will never be able to attend their local school.

This petition urges the VSB to seriously reconsider its proposed catchment boundary changes and instead address the root of the problem by holding residential developers to account.  Developers need to help build new schools to accommodate the surge of new families entering existing neighbourhoods.

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