Tracking Vancouver’s missing children

The latest report from BTAworks, the urban think tank sponsored by Bing Thom Associates, highlights declining enrolment in Vancouver’s schools, noting that enrolment has declined while population increased.

Councillor Andrea Reimer, a former school trustee, points to the Vancouver School Board’s open enrolment policy, imposed by the province,  as a source of the problem. This policy allows parents to enrol their children anywhere in the city.

Better-off eastside parents move their children west — away from schools graded poorly by the Fraser Institute or to escape some of the consequences of tight school funding — which hit those schools harder. They are taking up west side spaces vacated by children headed for private or independent schools. So enrolment drops in the east, but is steady in the west, while the number of children in the city grows.

Andy Yan, the researcher and planner who wrote the brief, acknowledges all these factors, but says they are “compounded by a lack of affordable housing that is suitable for young families with children.”

Michael Heeney, a Bing Thom principal who is a member of the Vancouver Economic Development Commission asks that “if we cannot create a city where families want to send their children to the school down the block, what chances do we have of creating the greenest city in the world?”

More proof, he says, that generating affordable housing is one of the city’s greatest sustainability challenges.


October 8, 2009