Vancouver parents cry foul over ‘devastating’ plan to bus kids across town during seismic upgrading

Parents knew students at Edith Cavell Elementary would have to go somewhere else during the school’s future seismic upgrades, they just never thought it would be at the other end of the city.

Kevin Harris, a member of the Parent Advisory Council (PAC), was shocked to hear students would first be split up, then shuttled to Champlain Heights School or Dr. H.N. MacCorkindale Elementary.

The drive from Cambie St. and 20th Avenue to both locations is approximately 20 minutes without traffic. One parent, Heather Zieber, told Global News she tried it during school pick-up hours and it took close to an hour.

Parent concerns include a lack of supervision during the long bus rides to the “swing schools,” inability for parents to volunteer at the other locations, and a disruption in extracurricular activities and before-and-after-school care.

“It’s going to be devastating for our children as well as for our PAC. Presently a lot of parents volunteer at the school during lunch hour to help out with fundraising initiatives. They won’t be able to trek across the city to do that anymore,” Harris said.

Harris said the Vancouver School Board (VSB) should have consulted parents first and it’s not too late to find an alternative solution. The Edith Cavell PAC insists there are closer schools with classroom vacancies that could be used instead.

“There are limited swing site spaces available in our district and many seismic projects underway and still to come. The District’s priority is to ensure that we create seismically safe learning environments for all our students as quickly as possible,” the VSB said in a statement provided to Global News.

“As a result of the feedback gathered from these meetings, the district team is re-examining options for a Cavell swing site location without effecting the accelerated timeline,” it added.

Both swing schools are currently hosting students from Kingsford-Smith Elementary which is only about five minutes away.

Eric Seto, whose son was a student at Kingsford-Smith, said he opted to drive him to Champlain Heights over taking the bus. He claims parents, who do not have that option, often complain about buses leaving early and arriving late.

“Children could be sitting outside for hours waiting for a bus that will never arrive,” Seto said.

Seto warns that if the transition to swing schools just five minutes away is a mess, he can’t imagine what it will be like when students are faced with a 20 to 50-minute commute.

Edith Cavell Elementary’s $15.6 million in seismic upgrade is slated for 2020, but parents believe it could begin as early as next September.

The Vancouver School Board has scheduled another meeting for Nov. 6.

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