Monday, 8 April 2013

Option 1 Design approved, but School District will not fund

Members of Highlands Covered Area Committee & Highlands principals met again with the NVSD (North Vancouver School District) Finance & Facilities Dept. on April 2nd. The NVSD approved Option 1 (see Highlands-Options), however they said they will not provide any funding (nor will they work towards sourcing any funding); Highlands’s students and their families would have to raise the entire estimated $150,000. We pointed out that we feel that the portion of the NVSD board approved motion (posted in our Nov. 30th update) “the board will consult with the Highland Parent Advisory Council and staff to…develop a multi-stakeholder funding plan” has not been fulfilled.

Additionally, the onus is being placed upon Highlands’s families despite the fact that the NVSD saved $700,000 from the Highlands school build coming in under-budget; all whilst Highland’s parents were raising concerns regarding the need for covered areas (concerns raised frequently from the date the designs were revealed in 2006 through to today). We pointed out what an enormous undertaking it would be for Highlands’s families to raise $150,000; our HPAC simply does not have the funds and we would be challenged to garner the commitment to raise and spend that large sum of money (it would take years of hard work to raise those funds and many feel that covered areas should be included within the school build budget, rather than funded by families).

We also reiterated that given our rain-forest climate, we view the NVSD decision not to provide covered areas as a building deficiency; rather than an exclusion of a “nice to have feature”. Schools should be built to serve the students in the climate they live in; where it rains a lot and children are required to go outside daily, offering shelter options is a necessity. Children’s needs for fresh air, exercise, and outdoor learning experiences are at stake when you take away outdoor covered area options.

The BC Ministry of Education’s school building “Area Standards” supports the inclusion of covered areas in school builds in areas of high precipitation (so they can be funded within the school capital budgets as they have been in the past). We encourage the BC Ministry of Education to ensure that the standards are upheld. The fact that the decision to include covered areas rests with each school district seems to defeat the reason the standards were created in the first place.

The NVSD is currently reviewing the policy regarding covered areas as noted in the final portion of their approved motion “to forward the issue of covered area projects to the Policy Review Committee for the development of policy and to the Presidents’ Council for future advocacy.” Our covered area committee feels that the next step is to raise community awareness of the issue of covered areas for all North Vancouver Schools and encourage members of our community to provide their input toward the policy decisions. We would like to see the NVSD policy set to include (and fund) covered areas in future school builds as well as a policy set to include (and fund) covered areas for the schools that had their covered areas taken away (either dismantled or not included in their new build).

At some point, a decision was made to stop building covered areas, even to dismantle some existing ones. We recommend a high level of public consultation and student consideration as the policies regarding covered areas are reviewed. We have learned that over the past ten years, a number of North Vancouver schools have made requests for covered areas; clearly there is a need. We encourage parents from all North Vancouver schools and members of our North Vancouver community to write to the NVSD (the Superintendent & the School Board) with your concerns regarding the need for covered areas and your recommendations as they create policies concerning them. 

In a recent survey conducted by Highland’s PAC asking families “what are some key things that HPAC members can do this year to most benefit our school?”, “work on creating a covered play area” came in at a close second to the top request “support and help develop our school learning environment”. We have had many people throughout our community tell us that covered areas are a “no brainer” given our climate. We encourage the North Vancouver School District to create a policy, and find a means to ensure covered areas for all schools.