Province inches forward on Cloverley school approval

School district has been asked for more details on need for school but so far no money has been promised

This article has been amended since first posting to include more information from the province on the school approval process.

It wasn’t a yes and it wasn’t a no.

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But the Ministry of Education is inching forward on approval of a new Cloverley elementary school in North Vancouver.

This spring, the new Cloverley Elementary was one of only seven new schools short-listed to move forward to submitting a “draft concept plan,” said Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.

Although the ministry hasn’t announced funding for the school, Ma said only projects that have been given preliminary approval by the province – and have had money set aside for them – get to that stage.

“It means we intend to move forward on it,” she said. “That is the indication that the money’s been earmarked.”

“I was over the moon when it was selected,” said Ma. “This is a really important project for me.”

The concept plan is a new step required by the province before school projects are approved.

The concept plan requires school districts to examine issues like possible catchment changes and enrolments at nearby schools before it will start examining the plan for a new school in detail.

“It’s a ‘Prove to us you need this school,’” SD44 secretary-treasurer Georgia Allison told North Vancouver school trustees at their recent public meeting.

Superintendent Mark Pearmain told trustees ultimately the new step may mean less back-and-forth between the school district and the province at a later stage in the approval process.

School officials had hoped to fast-track approval for the new school to deal with enrolment pressures in the lower and central areas of North Vancouver, which have had schools like Ridgeway, Queen Mary, Queensbury and Brooksbank bursting at the seams.

Nearby schools like Ridgeway and Queen Mary are already operating over capacity with portables.

The school district has asked the province to fund a $21.6-million "dual track" elementary school with a capacity of 535 students, including French immersion.

Building a new elementary at the site of the former Cloverley Elementary has been at the top of North Vancouver School District’s wish list for nearly two years.

While the latest news means the project is moving forward, it also means a delay in getting final approval of the school with a budgeted funding amount.

Trustee Megan Higgins said she’s disappointed by the delay. “I was really hoping for a yes on Cloverley this year,” she said. “It’s really obvious to me we need a new school and we need it now.”

The Cloverley land – at the corner of Cloverley Street and Hendry Avenue - already belongs to the school district, so wouldn't require the province to find and pay for a site, or go through a possibly lengthy redevelopment process.

Cloverley has been closed as a public school since 1982.

Tenants over the past 35 years have included the publicly funded parent participation Windsor House school, francophone school École André-Piolat, dance academy Pro Arte, and the YMCA.

The school district considered residential development on the Cloverley site in 2014, eventually commissioning a report that suggested a four-storey apartment and about 50 townhouses. However, no proposal was ever formally submitted to the city.

 

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