Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Covered Area Committee’s Final Update

We have exhausted our efforts. This will be our final blog update until we have any positive results to report. Despite all of the public concern for the need for covered areas (Highland’s family surveys indicating overwhelming concern/support, written letters to the North Vancouver School District (NVSD) and board, concerns raised from various North Vancouver elementary school families & residents, and concerns raised by the public and candidates at the last two municipal elections), we have be unable to get this situation truly addressed by the NVSD.

There are some staff of the NVSD (and a couple on the school board) who don't feel that covered areas should be an essential school building component in our rain forest climate. Nor do they feel any obligation to students and tax-payers to reinstate the covered areas that the NVSD dismantled or omitted (without public input or approval). This resistance seems to have put a halt towards any genuine discussion or resolve over the years. A handful of people should not be able to dismiss strong public concern or quash the pursuit of solutions to a situation that will negatively impact students for generations to come. 

We encourage all concerned to write letters (see “Write letters” for email addresses and a template).

We are signing off with these requests in hopes the one day they will be addressed:

Requests to the North Vancouver School board/District:
1. Request for a written, public commitment/policy to include covered areas in future elementary school builds or renovation projects (given that they can be funded by the Ministry of Education within Elementary School build budgets due to N. Vancouver's high precipitation levels). This commitment would not cost a cent right now. It would show good-faith response towards addressing public concerns. It would also ensure that in future years from now, with changes in staff and board, that all of our efforts would not be forgotten and yet another school be built without covered areas.

2. Request for a public commitment to reinstate covered areas in the schools that had their covered areas omitted or dismantled. We have seen that "where there's a will, there's a way" when it comes to NVSD expenditures. We are certain that the NVSD could commission a contractor to build some great covered area solutions at a much more reasonable price (far below the $150,000 suggestion the NVSD had for Highlands). They could also get volume pricing if they negotiate contracts for many schools. They could ask the school PACs to contribute financially and they phase the builds over time to spread the costs.

Request to the British Columbia Ministry of Education:
1. The priority for all school buildings should be that they are safe and they are functional. We are in an earthquake zone and a high precipitation climate; our schools should be built suitable to our conditions. We ask the Ministry of Education to ensure that is so via funding choices and via direction to the individual school boards. Regarding our plight for covered areas, we ask that you encourage the North Vancouver School Board/District to include covered areas in future builds and to build covered areas in the schools that had their omitted or dismantled. 

2. We request your consideration of some changes to the “Area Standards” (see below*):
  • #1 request: the wording “may” be changed to “must be added”. “May” leaves the decision up to a handful of people; “must” says that we build schools suitable to our climate.  
  • Change exceeding 2000mm to 1100mm so that “rainy Vancouver” qualifies. North Vancouver is well over the 2000mm threshold, but why doesn’t Vancouver, renowned for its rainfall, qualify?
  • Add wording – “Ideally, the total covered area space could be separated into two separate areas – one for primary, one for intermediate students”. We have learned from many schools that this is important as the students want that separation. 
*2.3.4 Covered Play Areas (page 10 & 11 of Area Standards Guide)
A covered play area not exceeding 100 m2 (total roof area) may be added to an elementary school that meets the following criteria:
• A school will be eligible if it has a nominal capacity less than 175.
• All elementary schools in a district will be eligible if the district has one of the following conditions:
• annual precipitation exceeding 2000 mm
• more than 5000 degree days below 18oC per annum
• exceptional local conditions which create problems best solved by a covered play area.