BURNABY–As CUPE BC prepares to begin its annual convention next week, K-12 issues are looming large across the province.
CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill and other CUPE BC executive members touched base with school trustees from across the province at an April 4 CUPE-sponsored reception at the BC School Trustees annual general meeting. Trustees packed the event, receiving a package of information from CUPE and sharing thoughts about key education issues in a relaxed setting.
On April 6, CUPE 15 and other CUPE members and staff, participated in a well-attended Think Schools event in Vancouver. A day of speakers and workshops laid the groundwork to develop a vision for renewing Vancouver schools and identifying key issues related to public school space and infrastructure. Over 100 participants heard from a range of speakers, including keynote Don Gillmore from the Seattle Building Excellence Program, and session speakers Tracy Monk from Families for School Seismic Safety, Stuart Rothnie from Hughes Condon Marler Architects and Carlos Ventura from UBC.
An April 7 rally at the legislature, sponsored by the LANDS (Let’s Agree Not to Dispose of Schools!), highlighted the massive loss of schools and public assets that has occurred in the past number of years. CUPE 593 members from the Mission school district were among the group of parents, students, teachers and activists who attended the Victoria rally and called upon the provincial government to stop the sell-off of schools and school lands.
Data released by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation in support of the LANDS rally finds that 150 public schools in B.C. have closed since 2001 and 45 more are threatened with closure, yet student numbers are down in B.C. a mere 6 per cent. According to the BCTF, the majority of the school closures in B.C. have nothing to do with declining enrolment – making an even stronger argument to challenge the sell-off of schools and public lands across the province.
In December, CUPE BC sent a letter to all B.C. school trustees proposing a creative solution to keep schools open by using school space for much needed child care capacity. CUPE encouraged school boards to consider applying for provincial funding that would allow vacant classrooms to be refurbished and licensed to provide space for child care programs.