Richmond Board of Education to consider terminating school closure process

Special meeting called by trustees for Oct. 11

Richmond’s Board of Education chair Debbie Tablotney is calling on parents to attend a special public meeting Tuesday night that will see trustees vote to terminate the school closure process of McKay, Woodward and Dixon elementary schools.

“This will be important for parents to attend,” said Tablotney.

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The special meeting will be held at Richmond secondary school at 7 p.m., in order to accommodate what is expected to be a large crowd.

“It’s been a long process, 15 months, and since the superintendents report we’ve had a tremendous amount of feedback,” said Tablotney.

“We’ve learned a lot about how parents value their schools,” she added, noting the three special board meetings held at each school last week.

She told the Richmond News she couldn’t reveal details about the termination process and how trustees reached the decision.

But if a majority on the board votes in favour of terminating the closure process, the three aforementioned schools will remain open next year.

Asked if the Vancouver School Board’s decision this week to halt its own process of school closures had an impact on Richmond trustees, Tablotney was, again, reserved in her comments.

“What I can say about the Vancouver decision is that this is very different. They were just starting their consultation phase,” said Tablotney.

The chair has maintained in the past that it was her duty to keep students safe and that, in part, meant getting facilities the seismic upgrades that are needed from the Ministry of Education.

Over the past 15 months, that has meant devising a plan to bring district-wide facilities up to 95 per cent utilization (for purposes of efficiency), per orders from the Ministry (as understood by the Richmond School District), which has shown a reluctance to rebuild schools that have numerous unoccupied rooms.

But this summer, the Ministry told the district (or reiterated to it) that such a threshold was merely a guideline. It simultaneously took away the 95 per cent threshold from Vancouver, as well.

Tablotney wouldn’t state whether the new interpretations from the Ministry had an impact on the board’s decision to consider terminating the closure process come Tuesday.

The closures of McKay, Dixon and Woodward would have brought Richmond's utilization rate to 91 per cent, from 85 per cent, saving the district $750,000 in operating costs annually.

Up to 500 parents and children attended a special board meeting at Dixon last week to protest the superintendent's recommendations, according to many of the school's PAC members.

Woodward and McKay parents also voiced strong opposition to the proposed closures.

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