Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Policy/Post-Board Meeting Update

At the May 28, 2013 North Vancouver School Board public meeting, the Board approved a policy called “Outdoor Learning Spaces” that, while opening the door to some school ground enhancements proposals, unfortunately does not provide any commitment to building covered areas in future builds (when they can be funded by the BC Ministry of Education within the capital build budget) nor any commitment to help build and fund covered areas for the schools that had their covered areas taken away. More details about policy and the board meeting at end of this post.

We’d like to point out that we feel that there are some school board trustees trying to help save covered areas (and thank you to those members!) and then we have some North Vancouver School District staff and board members who will not commit to including covered areas in our schools. 

We encourage everyone to continue to write letters! Your letters still can make a difference! We as a committee have tirelessly worked to lay the groundwork, and now we are encouraging everyone to carry this torch and do whatever you can to help saved covered areas in North Vancouver!

Clarification of precipitation stats
The Ministry of Education will fund covered areas “if a district that has annual precipitation exceeding 2000mm” or has “exceptional local conditions which create problems best solved by a covered play area”.  North Vancouver has an average rainfall of 2537mm, well above the 2000mm threshold. The precipitations statistics that this Covered Area Committee reference, are from the leading credible source, Environment Canada, "Canadian Climate Normals or Averages 1971-2000" .

The Board Chair stated that they looked up the North Vancouver precipitation stats and came up with an average of 1889 mm, just 111mm under 2000; she did not reference the source, but said it was from the year 1990. We have not been able find any source with precipitations stats that low <Update: they have since reported that the source was “Supplement to the National Building Code of Canada 1990, published by the National Research Council Canada. However we have requested a web-link or hard copy to this information and it has not been produced.>  The Area Standards states that "the climatic data shall be derived from an approved official source such as the supplement to the National Building Code". The Building Code references Environment Canada data. Even the Ministry of Education said that the decision to build covered areas in North Vancouver rests with the NVSD. (see Highlands info below).

The Ministry of Education created a guideline for covered play areas in high precipitation climates. North Vancouver school buildings have included covered areas in the past. Children deserve shelter options when they live in a rain forest.
Highlands & other schools that have had their covered areas taken away 
Highlands’s parents have spent countless hours and energy trying to get covered areas for the students and to save covered areas in North Vancouver schools (see "Highland's Story"). We are so disappointed to report that Highlands’s students are left with no resolution.  Parents asked for covered areas during the Highlands design phase, Highlands qualified for funding from the Ministry going by accurate precipitation information, but the North Vancouver School District didn’t build any covered areas and the school build came in $700,000 under budget. They put in extensive concrete planters, but they didn’t include covered play areas. The NVSD makes no apologies for this decision not to build covered areas, and they offer no commitment to rectifying the problem. The children will continue pay the price for this negatively impactful decision.
The Residents Association also raised concerns about the lack of covered areas. Parents were told they could add them later, and after years of fighting just finally got approval (albeit not against a school wall as desired, and at a unaffordable, after-the-build price tag of $150,000). Read Residents Association letter here.
In 2011, The Ministry of Education informed Highlands that the decision to build covered areas rests with the North Vancouver School District and the encouraged us to pursue the issue with them. Read letter from the Ministry.
The NVSD previously approved a motion to develop a multi-stakeholder funding plan to fund a covered area for Highlands Elementary; we feel that they have not fulfilled this. The NVSD, being one of the major stakeholders in their schools are not offering any funding; all they did was provide a list of possible grants for Highlands to look into; most were either outdated or inapplicable and the amounts so small that it would take many years to raise $150,000. It would also be a challenge to garner the support for raising this large amount of many as many feel that it should be funded within a school's build. The cost would have been much less if built during the school build.
In recent years Lynn Valley School and Westview also underwent new builds and parents have been asking for covered areas for those schools too.  The NVSD has dismantled covered areas in some existing schools as well. Those students are all paying the price of these decisions too.
Policy Details Cont.
A policy is meant to be a clear guideline, a benchmark for future decisions and actions; and it remains unclear as to what will be done concerning covered areas. We were really hoping for commitments to come out of this policy.
They also did something new with this policy (and plan to apply it to all future policies going forward), they separated the “Administrative Procedures” which guide the policy into the “action plan” phase.  These procedures will be completed in September or October. We don’t know how this will affect covered areas for all.  
Revision: the official approved motion wording is as follows: that the Board of Education approve Proposed New Policy 806: Outdoor Learning Spaces, as attached to this Administrative Memorandum of May 28, 2013  <pages 63-65>, and further that the Board develop a policy for the construction of new capital projects that addresses possible building features.
We also requested more advocacy from them on behalf of local parents and community members so we don’t have a repeat of what happen with Highlands. We want much more public info and participation when it comes to building a new local school. These buildings have to suit students for generations so we need to make sure they suit the needs of the students and our climate.
Click to view the North Vancouver School Board Meeting Minutes

FYI: the following action points were clarified within the board meeting minutes:
 “During discussion and in response to Trustees’ questions, the following points were clarified: advocacy for capital project supplemental funding was discussed at a recent meeting of the Presidents’ Council, and a letter to the Minister is being drafted as well as a request for the Ministry to review rainfall rates for a district where there is variance in precipitation rates; the process and timing in developing the Administrative Procedures where the sub-committee will meet from June to September with recommendations brought to the Policy Review Committee in late September or early October; and consideration of a more formalized capital planning process in the Fall.”