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HomeBusinessQueen Elizabeth Annex parents lose battle with Vancouver School Board

Queen Elizabeth Annex parents lose battle with Vancouver School Board

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Bob Mackin

A B.C. Supreme Court judge refused to block the June 30 closure of Queen Elizabeth Annex, after he refused to grant parents an injunction to keep the Kindergarten to Grade 3 French immersion school open.

Queen Elizabeth Annex (VSB)

But Justice David Crerar’s Tuesday verdict in favour of the Vancouver School Board, published on Friday, says that there will be classes at the Dunbar school under different management in the fall. 

“Successful judicial reviews of school closures are rare, reflecting the appropriately very limited jurisdiction of the court to interfere with the multifaceted decision of an elected body,” Crerar wrote. “While the petitioner parents [Queen Elizabeth Annex Parents’ Society] are unhappy with the form of consultations, and the ultimate outcome, they had many opportunities to argue their case to the board and its representatives, and did so extensively and powerfully.”

The School Board voted in April to declare the the school surplus. But Crerar said the worst-case scenario is for Annex students to move to one of two Kindergarten to Grade 7 schools a kilometre away. One of the alternatives, Jules Quesnel Elementary, offers French immersion. 

The 1964-built, one-storey Annex has 70 students, but the land was assessed last year at $45.1 million. The board had pondered its closure since 2008, when Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique (Conseil), the provincial school board for francophones, began pursuit of the property. 

The Annex and 10 other schools were under consideration for surplus designation in 2016, the year that the provincial government fired the elected school board. 

Also in 2016, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Conseil, that the rights of francophone students were infringed because their education needs were underserved on the West Side of Vancouver.

A 2018 report by PartnershipsBC recommended developing a new elementary school for Conseil on the Annex site. 

In December 2020, Conseil filed suit against the board and the province, seeking the transfer of the Annex site, in order to comply with the 2016 court decision. The Queen Elizabeth Annex Parents’ Society argued that the board’s 2022 consultation process was a sham, because it already decided to close the Annex and transfer the school to Conseil.

“The petition alleges that the closure of the school was a fait accompli, coordinated between the board, the province, and the Conseil, to provide a future or potential settlement of the Conseil action, in return for provincial funding for the board’s number one priority since June 2018: an elementary school in the densely-populated Olympic Village neighbourhood,” Crerar wrote.

The verdict said the board and Conseil have entered into a lease for the next school year and the Conseil is proceeding to register and prepare the school for francophone operations in September.  

“While the Court is sympathetic to the petitioner, a group of parents rather than a corporate entity brimming with cash and resources, its members consist primarily of sophisticated professionals,” the judge wrote. “They were well–motivated and well–organized to challenge the proposed closure of the Annex in the many months leading up to the closure decision: they would also have been in a position to continue those effort in the immediate wake of the closure decision, and to file its petition more promptly.”

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