The Tyee and Carlito Pablo have written about the continuing decline of student registraton in Vancouver, with a further 250 kids expected not to return to city schools in the Fall of 2017. The Vancouver School Board estimates that 450 less kids will enroll in the year after that.
“Beyond 2018-19 enrolment is expected to decline incrementally and then stabilize beginning in 2020, based on current projections for the population of school-aged children living in Vancouver,” acting school district associate superintendent Rob Schindel wrote in the report.
Fewer children are going to city schools, with large groups of Grade 12 students graduating and smaller numbers of kindergarten children replacing them.“Vancouver’s population, like the rest of the province, is aging…When the ‘baby-boomers’ were in their school age years, VBE [Vancouver Board of Education] increased school capacity to accommodate the surge in demand. As the ‘baby-boomers’ move into their senior years, there are fewer young people with school age children to fill the existing school inventory. The modern family composition is smaller in size as there are fewer babies being born today than in the past.”
The statistics are not warm and fuzzy for Vancouver as a child friendly city.  The City of Vancouver with ten per cent of its population under twelve years of age in 2011 has one of the lowest percentage of children than any municipality in Canada.
We are truly defined by how cities treat the very young and the very old. Without supportive housing policy encouraging children to live and thrive in the city Vancouver is becoming a city of the old. How do we redefine family living to make housing diversity attractive and affordable to ensure Vancouver is a child friendly city? “


  1. It really depends on the neighbourhood! For the past few years, our East Van elementary school (David Livingstone just east of Main) has had to turn away kindergarten students from inside the catchment because there are so many families here. I think it’s a similar issue with the Downtown / False Creek elementary schools.
    I wonder if the schools that are losing children are those in predominantly single-family neighbourhoods?

  2. There is a strange distribution of children in Vancouver schools. The east side schools tend to be half empty while many west side schools are at capacity.
    Yet the population of Vancouver is concentrated on the east side and pretty much the entire west side is too expensive for most families. The majority of independent schools are also on the west side, something that should further diminish the number of kids in west side public schools.
    So what’s happened?
    I suspect the east side is now dominated by empty nesters and young people working full time (or multiple part time jobs) just to make ends meet. Those who can do basic arithmetic realize they couldn’t possibly afford to stay in the city if their earnings were to drop or their expenses were to rise, two things guaranteed to happen if you have kids. The census data probably shows this to be true.
    A second factor is the explosion of kids living in and near downtown where the school system simply can’t cope with the numbers. Rather than flow evenly to all the surrounding areas it appears that all the kids who can’t get into a downtown school are flowing south and west while nearby schools to the east struggle to fill classrooms.
    It appears that other areas are also seeing a westward migration of students. I believe the threat to close east side schools has accelerated that trend. No parent wants their child forcibly moved to a “random” alternate school so they are pre-emptively moving them. When my daughter’s east side school was threatened with closure we chose to move her to a school that was recommended to us by friends. We did buck the trend, however, by moving her farther east.

  3. The old guy we bought our house from said that in the sixties the block was chockablock with kids – then there were almost none. We boosted that number when we moved in 12 years ago. Our block with 27 houses now has 8 kids. That’s not a lot.
    Anyway, the school model is broken – a throwback to a pre-internet age. Primitive. Expensive. Grotesquely inefficient. What other enterprise pays its employees a year’s salary for half a year’s work – and a killer defined pension to boot. None. When the whining school teachers stayed on strike a few years ago and we started to get checks in the mail it was exhilarating. We parents are better equipped to allocate funds for our children’s individual learning experience than a classroom scenario. Multiple award-winning NY teacher John Taylor Gatto wrote several books (‘Dumbing Us Down’; ‘Weapons of Mass Instruction’) that are worth perusing.

    1. Perhaps you don’t know any teachers. Teachers of grades 1-6 are paid for 10 months, which means they have to stretch 10 months pay to 12 to cover the summer. Moreover, with marking, report cards, PAC meetings, staff meetings, after hours sports, etc., their 8-hour daily pay is often stretched to 10 or more. Many of them spend a week on both sides of summer disassembling and reassembling their classrooms without pay.
      Then you’ve got all the issues of funding cutbacks, like eliminating special needs classes and placing SN kids in with the general student body. One unruly kid can disrupt a class of 35 and knock the curricula off schedule. That will give a school an unfair bad rep through no fault of their own. Cutbacks also increase class size, and therein the quality of education. And the cutbacks by the current government have always been accompanied by huge subsidies and tax breaks for private schools.
      In addition, perhaps half the adult population are singles or empty nesters who continue pay school taxes without complaining, although they do not benefit.
      One could say the educational system is flawed. But it certainly isn’t because of the teachers.

  4. Last August:
    John Azpiri, Global News
    “Surrey schools will open their doors to 1,000 new students this fall but in some cases, the only place to put them is in a portable.
    Larry Strohan, who helps oversee work on the Surrey School District’s portables, said there are “lots of townhomes going up, lots of homes going up and they can’t build the schools fast enough.”
    New enrolment in Surrey is double that of last year’s. The district says the region’s housing boom is the biggest source of growth.
    “It’s a place where young families, relatively speaking, can still afford a home,” Doug Strachan of the Surrey School District said. ”
    Some many of these people just didn’t get the memo, that living downtown in a high-rise condo with a few kids is fun.

    1. That’s exactly the pattern mentioned in the post with Vancouver, which once had schools bursting at the seams. Soon enough the kids will grow up, but a good number of the parents will stay put and they’ll have an issue with lots of vacant desks in the schools in 20 years. This is part of the demographic urban cycle.
      The key is to build communities and neighbourhoods for all ages, and part of that is diversifying the housing to provide more family housing at lower prices than detached homes on full lots, and suites / condos / rowhouses for empty nesters and the aged. Transit and affordable rental housing are also key.
      We need all members of the symphony to play together. Right now, you’ve got the horns and strings thrashing away, but the bass and percussion sections are off having a glass of Merlot or a snooze.

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