Category Archives: Schools

Balmoral Update

The initial phase of conversion of the former Balmoral Junior Secondary School to the North Vancouver School District Learning Centre was completed in mid-September.

Phase 1 of the conversion included selective demolition and removal of hazardous materials. Phase 2 will reveal the new face of the District Learning Centre. Construction was scheduled to start in late October, with completion slated for the spring of 2013.

School District administrative staff met with the RCMP’s Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) specialists to review site concerns brought forward last spring by the Community Advisory Working Group. Following further feedback and discussion with the RCMP later this fall, the School District will be implementing recommendations. These include improvements to the security of the fields, trails, portables, and other buildings in the vicinity of the District Learning Centre.

The scope of work that will be undertaken will be communicated through the School District website and the Community Learning Program. During construction, the students attending the Community Learning Program and Distributed Learning School are being accommodated in classroom spaces that are outside of the zone of construction.

— by Sharlene Hertz


School Board Meetings this Week

It’s been a busy week for the school board. Sadly, due to family and work commitments, I wasn’t able to get to either meeting. But fortunately, Troy Vassos got to the one on Tuesday, and Keith Collyer managed to attend the meeting last night.

District Workshop on School Repurposing

On Tuesday evening, the school board held a workshop with the District on “school repurposing”. John Lewis gave the expected highly biased “spin” on program development and declining population projections – and then attempted to skirt-around public commentary on what should be done with PA lands. Barry Forward then corrected him – stating for the record that ALL of the public comments received stated the lands should be preserved as a capital asset – and only in critical situations should the assets be transferred to other capital interests (i.e. new building construction).

The DNV councillors made some very interesting statements regarding any future new building construction. It turns out they have come to the conclusion that Argyle and Handsworth are in the wrong locations – and that if there is funding to replace them rather than simply upgrade them seismically, they want to examine relocation and incorporation of community recreation and other services of mutual community/school benefit (e.g. enhanced playing fields, tracks, rec facilities, libraries, adult education, day care, theatres, etc.). Barry Forward and Susan Skinner suggested that the municipalities were in a better position to facilitiate planning and how the schools could best intergrate into the OCP than the NVSD (maybe there is hope).

Roger Bassam was particularly strong in questioning the NVSD, noting that even in leasing lands for revenue the NVSD needs to have a maximum 25 year lease period to maintain effective control and flexibility, what land sales the NVSD can put into general revenues to spend as they please, and even asked a leading question “who paid for the school lands?” .. to which Irene Young claimed to have been unable to answer despite exhaustive investigation – suggesting that in the absense of information to the contrary the land belonged to the NVSD. Roger replied the DNV has also looked into the question and obviously have been much more successful in theor research than the NVSD.

One last piece of information that echoes what Keith heard last night .. John Lewis stated the NVSD does not need any money from land sales as they have a balanced budget for at least the next three years.

NVSD Presentation on Land Livability and Learning

NVSD invited three experts on social development to speak at their workshop on Land, Livability and Learning on Wednesday night. The three speakers, although involved in development in one way or another did seem to give a balanced view of the options and responsibilities of the School Board with respect to the “surplus “schools. The most important point was that all three strongly advised against the selling of any of the properties, and also stressed that what ever happens to the sites must be something that meets the broader needs of the community.

They seemed to be suggesting that there must be a bit of vision involved, rather than just viewing the sites as a short term cash injection. One of the speakers poo poo’d one of the suggestions of the School District that the income from the sales would be used to create an education trust fund. The thinking being that it is probably better to retain the ownership of the land and use the revenue from leases etc. to fund future projects.

One of the speakers even suggested that consideration should be given to making sure that if needed in the future some of the land could be reestablished as schools, in case the School District projections for student population were wrong. The Trustees, if not the School Board Administration were given food for thought.

On a side note, at both meetings, the board (John Lewis on Tuesday, and Franci Stratton on Wednsday) indicated that the District does not need the money for budgetary purposes, only for future upgrading of facilities and programs.

North Van School District Passes Balmoral Renovation Budget

This evening, the North Vancouver District School Board passed a motion to fund the renovations for the Community Learning Program at Balmoral. The total amount, including the amount already sunk on consulting is 2.5 million. From previous meetings, we know that this is expected to come from an existing fund that is essentially under-spending from previous projects, pending provincial approval, of course.

There was a lone dissenter, Susan Skinner once again spoke passionately in favor of building a special facility for these kids with special needs. What is the rush? Why are we moving them from one closed old facility to another? Why do Carson Graham students get a brand new school when the kids with most needs have to make do?

Even the furniture and fixtures will be repurposed from surplus. They expect to get some furniture from the old board office because I guess it will not be used in the new Board office building.

The architect, Patrick May made a presentation, which was startlingly similar to the designs shown in January. They are still planning to place the wrap-around services in new offices to be built where the cafeteria is today. There is still a new secondary entrance between the new multi-purpose room and these offices to enable community use of the gym.

The parking map claims 66 spaces. About forty of these will be in the front lot. The balance are around the back. Indeed the main secondary lot is 3/4 of the way around the building.

There is no covered bike parking as recommended by the Community Advisory Working Group, although Ian Abercrombie was receptive to adding a rail along the wall.

On the positive side, some of the seismic upgrade that is required will be achieved through cosmetic changes by removing some bricks that could shake onto your head.

Mr Abercrombie didn’t speak to the project plan at this meeting. However, in previous meetings, he indicated that the asbestos remediation would occur over the summer, with construction continuing on through early 2014.

Show your Support for the District’s New Bylaw

Come to the District Council Meeting

7:00 p.m. Monday, May 7, 2012
Council Chamber, Municipal Hall, 355 West Queens Road, North Vancouver

Contact the Council or the Mayor

Contact Details

The agenda for next week’s District Council meeting has just come out and carries with it a resolution that would result in a new bylaw. This bylaw would ensure that any change in use of school lands that may increase traffic in the neighbouring streets must mitigate the traffic and parking impacts, and that they must engage the public appropriately on any change in permitted use.

This resolution, if passed, would make it more difficult for the school board to sneak in programs that negatively impact the neighbouring community, such as the adult education program that was proposed for Balmoral. While there are some aspects of the resolution that want clarifying, such a bylaw would be a positive change for our neighbourhood. Please support it by either coming to the district meeting (where there is an opportunity to address council) or contacting council directly.

While you’re putting things in your calendar, you should also note the next School District meeting is on May 22nd at Sutherland Secondary School. We’ll publish more once we see the agenda.

School District Recommendations for Balmoral

The School District has now published the agenda package for the public meeting on April 24th at Sutherland, 7PM. They are recommending a motion to accept the following recommendations (paraphrased):

  • The Community Learning Program should establish communications with the community.
  • Storage and distribtution (District Services) of instructional resources for all schools and students should be moved to Balmoral.
  • Adult English Second Language Program should not move to Balmoral.
  • Classroom space at Balmoral will be reserved for future community or School District needs.
  • The North Vancouver Recreation Commission, needs to identify the needs and interests of the community before there should be further consideration of Rec Commission use of the gym and multi-purpose room.
  • The renovation project should include at least 65 on-site parking spaces
  • The Board of Education should continue to work with the District of North Vancouver regarding traffic and parking concerns.

The trustees are scheduled to vote on these recommendations at 8:45, although it will probably not happen exactly on time. Within these recommendations, there is much to celebrate. In particular, there appears to be adequate parking planned for the CLP, and the Adult ESL will not be turning our neighborhood into a parking lot. On the other hand, it is unclear from the recommendation what is to happen to the distance learning program, which carries with it a further traffic and parking conundrum. So your continued input is still valued.

Come out tomorrow and have your voice heard.

Upcoming Meetings Regarding our Schools

Schools are vital to our community. Without schools, we will have no families in our neighborhood. Without families, and the interactions through kids’ activities, one of the primary catalysts for meeting people falls away. When you know nobody in your community, there is no community. Then we see tumbling services, lower home values, the end of life as we know it.

So, even if you have no children of school age, you should be very interested in what happens in the North Vancouver School District. In particular, you should be very interested when the NVSD tries to make a case that they should sell off their properties.

Selling off school land is akin to a farmer selling off acreage to buy seeds for next year. Only a farmer in terminal decline would do this, and only a community in terminal decline should sell of their schools.

I don’t believe that North Vancouver is in terminal decline, and that’s why we need to fight the school district’s inclination to take the easiest path to balancing their books.

On Wednesday the 25th, at Ridgeway Public School from 4 ’til 8PM, the school district will be presenting its plans for dealing with the following “excess property:” Blueridge, Cloverley, Fromme, Keith Lynn, Lonsdale Creek Annex, Lucas Centre/Leo Marshall Curriculum Centre, Maplewood, Monteray, Plymouth, Ridgeway and Westover. While none of these impacts Delbrook directly, if you value your quality of life on the North Shore, you will come out and support our schools.

That is, of course, the day after the School District trustees vote on the money for renovations to Balmoral. That meeting is at 7 PM on Tuesday, April 24th, at Sutherland School Theatre. I see the agenda is not on the NVSD website yet.