News Local

B.C. drops 95% school capacity rule

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Parents, students and community members delivered petitions with thousands of signatures in support of east side schools. 
POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Parents, students and community members delivered petitions with thousands of signatures in support of east side schools. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

The provincial government is giving up its requirement that all Vancouver schools be 95% full, an order school trustees say prompted a process to close schools in order to pave the way for seismic upgrades.

Education Minister Mike Bernier said the province is “getting rid of utilization targets as part of our school investment process.” Bernier denied that meeting the capacity targets were ever a requirement for Vancouver school district to receive funding for seismic upgrades.

“It is clear this is a goal, not a requirement, as right now there is $200 million worth of provincially funded seismic upgrades underway in Vancouver,” the minister said in a statement.

“To reflect this reality of funding upgrades when a solid case is brought forward, we will remove the 95% goal if the Vancouver School Board agrees.”

VSB chairman Mike Lombardi said Bernier’s announcement is “good news,” but couldn’t say whether or not this meant fewer schools will be closed.

The VSB has shortlisted 11 schools for potential closure — partly due to the listed schools’ low capacity utilization.

“The minister has announced that after hearing from trustees, parents, community groups, the mayor and a city council and many others that the 95% arbitrary capacity utilization is now gone,” he said.

Lombardi said there needs to be more discussion.

“We can go to the drawing board and look at what our options are,” Lombardi said.

“That could well mean an adjustment to our recommendations. The good news is, it opens up those kinds of options.”