Provincial funds sought for campus school

December 01, 2005, vol. 34, no. 7
By Howard Fluxgold



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A group of concerned UniverCity residents is adding their voice to an effort to pressure the province to open an elementary school on Burnaby Mountain.

“We are the top new school priority of the Burnaby school district,” says Michael Geller, president and CEO of the SFU community trust. “Provincial funding is the hold up. There is a feeling that there are sufficient vacant spaces in some of the schools near the bottom of the mountain.”

Geller notes that there are about 100 children currently being bussed down the mountain to school, the only elementary school children in Burnaby who are bussed to school. Some attend the SFU daycare and are entitled to go to school in Burnaby, while others are from families living in residence or UniverCity.

“We know that there are a number of households with kids who would have moved in to UniverCity had a school been in place,” Geller explains.

“There are more than 50 young children who have already moved in to the first completed apartments and we are expecting a lot more children now that the first townhouses and the faculty and staff family housing are under way. A year from now we know there will be many more children who would be ready to go to the elementary school, if it were in place.”

Geller added, “We're pleased to see the residents joining with us to put pressure on the appropriate authorities to advance the timing of the school.”

Michael Hart, an associate professor of biology and one of the group organizers, says, “Our interest is to try to convince the province to speed up its plan to fund the school. Our strategy is to find out how many parents would like to bring their children to a school on campus. In addition to children already living in the community, we have already identified about 60 children of SFU students or employees who live outside the Burnaby school district and would like to bring their children to the new school. We think this is the tip of the iceberg.”

Geller admits that there's “never been a commitment in terms of timing (for a school), but certainly there's been an expectation that a school would be forthcoming.”

He says the university has agreed to make the east academic annex available for the school and that an estimated $5 million is needed to renovate it.

Ironically, the current minister of education, Shirley Bond, approved the transfer of the annex when she was minister of advanced education.

“It was our hope that now that she has moved over to education, given her background, she will be more supportive of funding the school soon,” Geller commented.

For more information about the residents' group contact Hart at mike_hart@sfu.ca

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