NDP, Liberals commit to funding school equipment VSB considers 'wish-list items'
VANCOUVER -- When a school in B.C. is seismically upgraded, massive work is done to make the structure is safe. Sometimes the school is rebuilt entirely, but the old furniture and equipment go right back in – leaving parents to fundraise for modern items.
The Vancouver School District considers items like classroom projectors and rugs for kindergartners in storytime to be luxuries parents should finance on their own, but the province’s political parties tell CTV News they are committed to lightening – if not outright removing -- the financial burden on families.
While several school communities have already experienced the challenges of fundraising massive amounts during a seismic upgrade, parents from Bayview Community School in Kitsilano made it an issue on the campaign trail when they revealed their school will be completely rebuilt after a cost-benefit analysis, but without many modern amenities standard in new schools.
"We were all very excited (for a new school), we were waiting for this to happen. What we didn't realize was that when they seismically upgrade a school, they don't provide anything that goes in the building other than desks and the walls and fixtures itself,” said parent Kelly Ryan. “So if you as parents want better for your kids, you have to raise the money. It's not coming from the government, it's not coming from the school board -- it's coming from your pocket."
CTV News has obtained an email from the school’s principal outlining hundreds of thousands of dollars in items, including $10,000-$15,000 for library furniture, up to twice as much for furniture in learning areas, and $37,500 for classroom projectors. Other items include scoreboard, outdoor furniture like benches or picnic tables and rugs for primary classes totalling roughly $2,500.
“Because many school communities are passionate about enhancing their children’s learning experience, they commonly ask administrators for wish-list items that the community would like to fundraise for and this would be on a school-by-school basis,” wrote a Vancouver School Board spokesperson.
Rob Fleming, who has been education minister in the NDP government for several years, confirmed that school districts decide whether or not to provide new furniture for schools, but he also said parents shouldn’t be fundraising for essential equipment.
"Technology plays an increasingly important role in how we delivery education,” he said in a Zoom interview with CTV News, pointing out the Horgan government quadrupled the number of schools undergoing seismic upgrades with a $400 million budget. “There's a $30 million ‘supplies’ annual commitment in our platform. We recognize in some school districts parents are inappropriately fundraising for things that are really beyond the means of their capacity to do that."
While they haven’t released their platform yet, the Liberals said they will be making a commitment to resolve the issue.
In the meantime, Bayview parents are continuing to fundraise and are grateful for the community members and anonymous donors stepping up to help – whether they’re making six-figure donations or buying bricks from the old structure, built in 1903, as souvenir fundraisers.
One parent believes there’s an easy solution the parties should implement, no matter who gets elected, and it revolves around the controversial school tax on multi-million dollar homes.
“Where does that school tax go?” asked Brie Lunn. “Wouldn't this be the perfect opportunity to use that school tax towards something that is actually needed and tangible to the community they can see?"