B.C. Education Minister Shirley Bond denies two elementary schools in Premier Gordon Campbell’s Vancouver riding are getting special treatment under a new provincial government upgrade program.
“Not at all,” she said from Smithers, B.C., late Monday. “These schools were part of the suggestions provided to us by the Vancouver (school) board.”
New Democrat critic Norm Macdonald said earlier that parents had every right to be outraged because it appeared the premier is playing politics with a child safety issue. He pointed out that two older elementary schools in Campbell’s Vancouver-Point Grey riding, General Gordon and Queen Mary, had been chosen for seismic upgrades and special treatment as part of the $30-million Neighbourhoods of Learning pilot project. Macdonald said it was clear the premier’s office, not the school board, was responsible for selecting the two schools.
Bond denied the two schools had jumped the queue. In an interview, she said General Gordon Elementary had been suggested as a possible candidate in a letter from the Vancouver board chair as early as last February. “We have said from the beginning that this dialogue took place with the Vancouver board,” she said. “The decision about the schools that would be involved in the pilot project was made in complete collaboration with the Vancouver board.”
The multi-million dollar project is aimed at turning older schools into centres for both education and community services.
The B.C. government has announced that three school districts will be participating in the pilot project, with the Vancouver school district being the first to create three model schools. The third is Vancouver’s oldest school, Lord Strathcona Elementary.
-a report from the Canadian Press