You may have been hearing about it for a long time, but feel nothing really seems to be happening with our Long Range Facilities Plan. Under the surface a lot is actually happening, and we’re launching a “go to” website for information and consultation, but more about that later.
Some would say the Richmond School District, like all school districts, is defined by the number of sites we have. Each site needs repairs, cleaning, heat, light and all the other things that make buildings work. Each school also has its own distinct identity, but professional, social and even family connections link us all together.
When you really get down to it, SD 38 is as small town as it gets. This small town feel is one of the things I enjoy most about working here. I’ve gotten used to running into former colleagues and their sons and daughters as I travel around from school to school. I still find it a little startling be chatting with staff members that my kids went to school with, but it is what it is. Let’s face it; I’ve worked here a long time. Of course, the other standout is the number of employees who are married to each other, but that’s another story.
Along with all the community connections, the buildings we’re in create a sense of who we are. Where we work carries all kinds of implications. Each site has its own culture and history. Right from the start, as these pictures show, we had (and still have) some very unique schools, and as always, they’re miniature reflections of our larger community. The feature photo at the top of the post is the first version of Steveston School, originally built in 1897.
That leads me to the question posed earlier, “Where Are We With Our Long Range Facilities Plan?” On July 1 we’ll begin a lengthy consultation process on this topic and the website mentioned above, called “Let’s Talk”, for information and input. Chances are good that the consultation process will take most of the 2015-2016 school year.
Why engage the community? Because schools and their surroundings deeply impact our parents, students, staff, community agencies, neighbourhoods and our partners, the City of Richmond, to name just a few. All these community members need a chance to get information and have their say.
At this point you may also be asking yourself, “Why the focus on facilities in the first place?”
This is why:
In most of Richmond declining neighbourhood enrollment has resulted in under utilization of school capacity. In some schools student populations are so small that the School District cannot offer the optimal range of programs. Trustees need to make a decision on which schools to close to ensure facilities are used in an effective and fiscally responsible way.
(Long Range Facilities Planning Steering Committee May, 2015)
In other words as our enrollment has declined over the past few years, we’ve ended up with more space than students in many of our buildings, and this is affecting how efficiently we use that space and limiting the programs we can offer at some sites.
A cautionary note: Low enrollment is just one issue when the Board of Education begins to consider closing schools. There are many other factors that must be taken into account including in/out-of-catchment composition, catchment areas, feeder school viability, district programming, seismic mitigation, facility condition and enrollment.
At this point there are no foregone conclusions about which schools may be closed , or even how many will need to be considered for closure .
Once again, to stay involved and informed about what’s happening, the Let’s Talk website: is the place to find information and ask questions. We look forward to hearing from you.
Note: Historical photographs from Boggis, A History of Public Schools in Richmond 1877-1979.