As the Richmond School District is going through a public consultation process on their draft Long-Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), the Ministry of Education announced on Friday a “new approach” to long-term capital planning.
In a letter to boards of education, Rob Fleming, the Minister of Education, said the process should focus on educational needs and public consultation. The ministry is also removing the requirement to have the plan approved by the province to prove the necessity for capital improvements.
“We will no longer expect LRFPs to be evidentiary documents that are needed to justify individual project funding requests,” Fleming said in his letter addressed to all boards of education. The focus of the LRFP, he added, should be broader than “just enrolment and capacity utilization.”
The letter was posted on the B.C. School Trustees’ Association’s website.
The letter goes on to say changes to the LRFP guidelines give boards “flexibility and space” for their wide-ranging vision.
This shift in attitude was reflected in comments made by the minister to the Richmond News last week when he was at Mitchell elementary.
“We’ve made it very clear to school districts both through our operating funding as well as new instructions around the LRFP, our government is not interested in closing schools,” Fleming told the Richmond News last week. “We want districts to focus on making good educational decisions.”
Previously, school districts were told their schools needed to be 95-per-cent full before they could get capital dollars for seismic upgrading, which has resulted in school closures.
The guidelines for the LRFP published on the ministry website, however, do still give school closures as one possible future scenario when trying to manage facilities.
Click here for a link to the letter from the minister.
The Richmond School District’s draft Long-Range Facilities Plan is posted at sd38.bc.ca.