This post has not yet been endorsed by the community association
Most neighbours are probably already aware that Balmoral School will be closing in June. What you may not have known is that the NVSD is planning to repurpose the school and re-open it next September. This will change the demographics of the school population to include the following:
• The Key Program (formerly known as Third Step) for AT Risk Students age 13 – 17
• Keith Lynn Alternate School (KLASS) for students age 13 – 17
• Therapeutic Day Program for students age 12 – 18 for students with mental health concerns
• The Youth Learning Centre (YLC) for students age16 – 19
The NVSD held a public information meeting on January 10 with the intent of describing the repurposing, described in the meeting as a “done deal”, and also pitch a concept to include their adult basic education program along with community services uses.
Although 1 in 6 students (representing approximately 2,500 students) were described by the NVSD representatives as having need for the above programs, conflicting information was presented regarding the exact number of students who are expected to be involved with estimates ranging from 187 to 287 students.
Adult Basic Education currently involves over 200 adult students, and the Distributed Learning program (centrally located at the site) serves approximately 50 students a day.
The other groups proposed to use Balmoral include:
• Coastal Health who will be providing programs for the At-Risk youth.
• a number of social service agencies including Hollyburn Family Services, PLEA Community Services, Ministry of Child and Family Development, Squamish Nation, City of North Vancouver,Jump-Start – Youth Addiction Outreach, RCMP, Westcoast Alternatives, North Shore Neighbourhood House, Youth Unlimited, North Shore Probation.
• North Shore Recreation Commission offering programs in the facility
While we are characterized as a bunch of NIMBYs, and perhaps we are, perhaps we would have been much more open to the proposed changes if the NVSD were able to address the following concerns:
No Community Consultation and Advisory Representation
There has been no community consultation, or reasonable attempt to engage the local community. The only reason residents became aware of the January 10th presentation was through PAC members infomring their neighbors.
At the January 10th meeting, there was only one local resident on the NVSD Community Advisory group. When questioned why this was the case, the NVSD simply replied they were unable to identify a neighborhood association to contact for volunteer participation (despite the listing for the then-inactive Delbrook Community Association on the District of North Vancouver’s website). Even now, we have five members on the Community Advisory Working Group, but the total committee has 20 names on it, and nine of their email addresses end with @nvsd44.bc.ca.
No direct efforts were made to engage or inform the community. The only communications have been through the schools. Local residents without children attending public schools in the area had no idea what was being planned.
Inadequate Site Parking and Traffic
The Lucas Centre currently houses many, but not all, of these programs, . On January 9, 2012 there were 257 cars, plus an undisclosed number of cars parked in “staff only” spaces, at Lucas Centre. While not all of the adult education participants will drive to the site, it can be expected that a large proportion will. In addition, parking is needed for the community service groups using the building, students who are driving, police and justice system staff involved in the programs, as well as the NVSD staff providing teaching, supervision and administration.
The Balmoral site currently provides just over 40 staff parking spaces, and if all of the paved areas around the building (includng those under the existing portables) are converted to parking, a maximum of 75 cars can be accommodated. Current residents near Lucas Centre cannot find space to park in front of their own houses.
There will also be constant traffic. The adult education classes are run in the mornings from 8 am onwards. Students are expected to arrive and depart throughout the day attending classes and/or programs in other parts of the school district, in addition to distance education students coming to the site to write exams. Many students will be at school from 9 am to 3 pm while others are enrolled in half day schedules.
And then there are the community services that the school district are hoping will take up residence in the building to support our students. Figure on fifty cars for the staff alone, but what about their clients?
Superintendent Lewis admitted there have been no studies done regarding the impact on parking within the community, or increased traffic as a result of the proposed building use programs and acknowledged it was not appropriate to present program proposals (particularly noting the adult education program) without complete assessment and information – but stated he was simply following the Boards directive in advancing the proposed program relocations.
No Offsite Supervision or Neighborhood Impact Considerations
The information presented stated the NVSD intends to provide enhanced and careful supervision of students “within the building” but has no control once the students walk out the door. Many students will be at school from 9 am to 3 pm while others are enrolled in half day schedules.
There has been a significant increase in vandalism within the neighborhood as a direct result of the initiative to move students from other communities to Balmoral while Carson Graham is renovated. Students moving through the neighborhood to walk to other areas or catch buses repeatedly paint, kick-down, and otherwise vandalize fences in the area and other property. This occurs throughout the day, not only during breaks, lunch, and after school – despite the curent school supervision efforts. School officials are unwilling to take any measures to help mitigate the problem and simply advice the complainant to contact the police.
Extended Use and Hours of Operation
The Balmoral site will be actively used from 8 am to 10 pm.
The NVSD representatives indicate there will be a “final vote” in February 2012 to confirm next years programs and location of operation.