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It is important to recognize that the school closure debate has been around in the
infrastructure grew the natural resource industry changed and populations migrated to the
Lower Mainland, the rural areas of the province saw the demise of the small rural school.
What has brought this issue to the forefront of most school boards today is the fact that it is no
longer a rural small school issue. Since
all time high of 607,481 in 1997, it has seen a steady decline and now sits at approximately
550,000 for the 07/08 school year. Further, between 2001 and 2007 there has been 139
schools closed as a result of that declining enrollment. Many of the schools closed in Lower
Mainland districts, such as
While respecting that the school closure issue is just as important to
the rural districts, the
challenges faced by Lower Mainland districts requires a closer look at the functional capacity
rules imposed by the Ministry of Education, which will benefit both rural and Lower Mainland
Functional capacity is the
percentage that the districts’ schools are occupied by students.
This capacity level is used to determine how well utilized the schools are within each district.
It is the determining factor for a school district that must be met before a district is granted
permission by the Ministry to build a new school. The percentage for elementary schools has
to be at 100% occupancy for all elementary schools in the district and 110% for secondary
schools. As well, enrollments must be increasing. Some discretion on this has been applied,
but only in extreme cases.
Development trends in some Lower Mainland districts are causing
migration away from the older family neighbourhoods into newer outer lying subdivisions.
This leaves older neighbourhoods with more and more “empty nester” homes, which are
void of school age children and the result is fairly good sized neighbourhood schools are
having more and more empty classrooms every year. This leaves districts in the difficult
situation of not being able to rationalize a new school in the developing areas, due to the
requirement of meeting the functional capacity percentage imposed by the Ministry
Education before permission to build a new school will be awarded.
In order to keep our community schools open, we need to revisit what
functional capacity of schools. The traditional criteria for determining functional capacity is
outdated and is inadequate as a way of accounting for the space requirements that Boards
of Education have in order to fulfill their educational mandate within their communities. Given
the expanded role of Boards of Education which now includes responsibility for adequately
serving pre-school children, post secondary learners, and their families, the formula for
determining functional capacity must be updated. A revised formula must include programs
such as pre-schools, daycares, social services, health, community libraries housed in schools,
strong start centers, post-secondary programs, and continuing education
and parenting programs,
all of which are necessary components of a comprehensive community education program that is
consistent with the current mandate for Boards of Education. Further, the functional capacity
must take into consideration the evolution of educational practices that require additional
specialized space, such as “sensory rooms” which are used to meet the needs of children with
Autism Spectrum Disorder and have become integral to the support that these students need.
Other services that are often not serviced in adequate space are speech and language therapies,
which are also required to ensure success is afforded for each and every one of our learners.
Based on the above information, you are being asked to join us in
requesting that the
Minister of Education amends the determination for what constitutes the functional capacity
of our schools, so that a reasonable percentage can be ascribed to all of the services that
are now required within the schools that serve the many needs of our communities.