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VSB may spare century-old school house from wrecking ball

It looks like the yellow heritage school house at General Gordon elementary may be saved from demolition thanks to fallout from a court case. Last November, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the B.C.
school house
The fate of the historic yellow school house has been the subject of a years-long debate. Photo Dan Toulgoet

It looks like the yellow heritage school house at General Gordon elementary may be saved from demolition thanks to fallout from a court case.

Last November, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation in a lengthy dispute with the government over teachers’ right to negotiate class size and composition in collective agreements.

The province used legislation to strip teachers of that right back in 2002, leading to a series of court battles.

The Vancouver School Board subsequently reached an agreement with Vancouver teachers to add the equivalent of 95 more full-time positions. It also means smaller class sizes in some schools and therefore the need for more classrooms in those schools.

While this isn’t expected to affect General Gordon in the 2017-18 school year, VSB staff anticipate an additional classroom will be needed in the 2018-19 school year, which means the yellow schoolhouse may be needed to accommodate General Gordon students instead of housing them in a portable.

The debate over the fate of the historic schoolhouse has gone on for years.

The VSB tried to find an organization to fix and lease the arts and crafts-style building but failed. Although it also looked at moving the building, it wasn’t considered feasible. Once all options were exhausted, staff recommended it be knocked down, much to the dismay of heritage advocates who argued the century-old building should be saved.

Last February, a decision about whether to demolish it was put on hold until the district’s heritage liaison committee could meet and discuss other options.

Then, on May 17, a staff report went before the planning and facilities committee recommending the building be retained for school use and renovated due to the anticipated impact of the court ruling.

The General Gordon parent advisory council, which had argued all along that the schoolhouse, or the space it occupies, should be used to benefit the community, expressed support for the latest recommendation on its website.

“After nearly four years, we now have what seems to be an acceptable proposal to renovate and use the outbuilding for the direct benefit of the Gordon community, instead of demolishing it,” they wrote.

A final decision is expected to be made by the VSB’s government-appointed trustee, Dianne Turner, at the May 29 school board meeting.

noconnor@vancourier.com

@naoibh