No Vancouver school closures for 'foreseeable future': minister
Published Tuesday, October 18, 2016 4:36PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 18, 2016 4:39PM PDT
Hours after an 18,000-signature petition to save Vancouver schools was delivered to the B.C. government, the province confirmed there would be no closures in the "foreseeable future."
School board trustees had mulled the closure of 11 schools earlier this year, before being fired by the provincial government on Monday. Education Minister Mike Bernier confirmed the next day that the closure process has been scrapped.
"School closures are not being considered any time in the foreseeable future," he told reporters.
The Vancouver School Board’s consultations on potential closures, which were proposed as a means of dealing with its budget shortfall, had already been put on hold amid allegations of workplace bullying.
Bernier told reporters said he didn't trust the VSB’s past decisions, including its process of identifying potential closures. He said he didn't want to "take into consideration any past decisions as being factual.”
Instead, the board’s replacement and former Delta superintendent Dianne Turner will start finding a way to address the district’s financial woes from scratch.
Bernier said Turner, who was appointed to fill in for the elected trustees dismissed by the minister, has all the powers of the board, but her main priority for now will be to "bring stability" to parents and students.
When the entire board was let go on Monday, some parents wondered whether the minister would renew efforts to close schools.
Parents and MLAs delivered a petition to the minister on behalf of students and families from the schools slated for possible closure by the now-terminated board.
In a statement, the NDP said Bernier had mentioned school closures might be back on the table, but the minister dismissed the claim as a "political game."
Finding a long-range facilities plan – which could include whether closures are necessary – is among Turner's responsibilities, but it will not the first task she takes on. It is now up to Turner to dissect the board's finances and get them back on a "strong foothold," Bernier said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan