The New Westminster Secondary School replacement funding announcement has been a long time in coming, and correspondingly there has been a lot of work done behind the scenes. People like me often complain about the whole process without giving praise where praise is due, so let’s stop complaining and start praising!

First and foremost, the biggest kudos belong to Jonina Campbell, chair of the school board. She has worked long and hard to keep the pressure up in getting NWSS replaced. She is a tireless advocate for education in New Westminster and deserves all of the praise anybody could ever give her. I’ve been at DPAC meetings where she’s given updates, and I could tell she was getting a little frustrated with how long things were taking, but she was professional and collected throughout the entire process. Thank you Jonina!

Praise also to the two new members of the school board trustees: Kelly Slade-Kerr and Mark Gifford. They’ve also worked hard, not only to get everything lined up from the school board’s point-of-view, but by bringing a unified, harmonious, and level-headed voice forward on behalf of everybody involved in New Westminster. Previous school boards were fairly dysfunctional, and Slade-Kerr and Gifford both brought much-needed stability and unity to the table.

Kudos to Danielle Connelly and Mona Boucher for raising the pressure on behalf of parents. The rally brought the issue to the forefront in provincial media, and that pressure helped get the funding through.

Thanks also to Judy Darcy for organizing petitions and meeting with Mike Bernier daily to make sure that replacing NWSS was truly at the top of the Ministry of Education’s list.

There are probably countless staff members at School District 40 who have worked on the plans through this entire process, making sure that all of the boxes were checked, and they deserve our thanks as well.

We’ve been waiting a long time to thank someone for getting NWSS rebuilt, so let’s thank everybody I mentioned here!

With voting day in the School District 40 by-election just 9 days away, the usual arguments in New Westminster politics have started coming out. One of the candidates, Dee Beattie, received the endorsement of the New Westminster & District Labour Council while the other, Mary Lalji, did not. This has lead to the usual spilling of ink about how The Machine will lead Beattie to victory, as if assuming that she has no other qualifications that people may want to vote for beyond the endorsement.

And, frankly, that’s kind of the case. Both candidates offer pretty much the same things. They would both be capable school board trustees. They both want the best for the children of New Westminster. While I have issues with some of their issues (in Beattie’s case I find her previous lack of engagement with the community to be a weakness and there’s no way Richard McBride Elementary should remain standing, and in Lalji’s case I find her endorsement of school buses for Queensborough children lacking a grounding in understanding the school district’s budgetary constraints) I would be perfectly happy with either candidate becoming a school board trustee.

So in this election, I believe that the differentiation between the two candidates comes from the community of people who backs them.

In Beattie’s case, it’s labour. As she says, she’s a CUPE person. She has the backing of nearly every other person elected to public office in New Westminster, all of whom were endorsed by the NWDLC, coincidentally enough. Her lack of engagement within New Westminster is being propped up by these endorsements. To some people, that’s a plus. The NWDLC interviews candidates and endorses those that it believes offer progressive views. New Westminster is a relatively progressive city, so it only stands to reason that more people in New West would want to vote for someone that shares those views, and the endorsement by the NWDLC is a good way for candidates to show they have progressive views.

That process tends to work best in general elections where candidates are first nominated to be elected, after which they seek the NWDLC endorsement. In this by-election, a few people were interviewed by the NWDLC first, the NWDLC chose Beattie to be the endorsed candidate, and then Beattie filed her nomination papers. This strikes me as backwards and almost anti-democratic as it probably discouraged those who sought but did not receive the endorsement from running. Frankly, the more people running the better, and if even one potential candidate didn’t run because the NWDLC wouldn’t endorse them, then that’s a failure of democracy that lies in the NWDLC’s lap.

With the NWDLC endorsement comes The Machine. I’ve been told that the following is all optional but the majority of NWDLC-endorsed candidates seemed to have accepted this help in the past election. The Machine is the colloquial name for all of the machinery that comes with a political campaign: phone banks, lists of phone numbers and email addresses of potential supporters, door-to-door canvassing assistance, and election day support (driving potential supporters to the polls, calling supporters to remind them to vote, that sort of thing). Candidates often pool their resources to save money and have a more effective campaign, but additional support comes from outside (I’ve heard rumours that this is supplied by the NDP, but don’t hold me to that). Candidates are obviously free to accept and reject any part of this support; they don’t need to take all of it if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Side note and full disclosure: in the last municipal election I supported Patrick Johnstone both financially and by volunteering. At least, I tried to volunteer for him, but when I showed up at the campaign office he was sharing with other NWDLC-endorsed candidates (another Machine perk), I ended up being a runner to help out other volunteers who were volunteering for the entire suite of NWDLC candidates. Someone I know was in the same boat: volunteering for Johnstone but actually phone-banking on behalf of a different candidate altogether. This isn’t to call him out (I know he did a hell of a lot of campaigning on his own and raised a shedload of money from individuals in New West), this is merely to throw a little light on how The Machine works.

In this by-election there is no pooling of resources because there’s only one NWDLC-endorsed candidate. That hasn’t stopped other parts of The Machine from being put into action, however. I’ve received three phone calls (two automated, one real person) and one email from Dee Beattie’s campaign, even though I’m pretty sure I never gave her my phone number. My phone number came from someone’s list. Maybe the NDP’s — I’m a member so it could have come from them.

The Machine is up and running, and one would think that Mary Lalji stands at a disadvantage because of it.

But I think that’s actually her strength. Lalji has completely different roots in the community. She’s heavily involved with Hyack Football, which is an extremely successful group in New West. Hyack Football isn’t just the high school football team, they also do youth football and cheerleading starting from kindergarten. They’re very involved in the community, not just as an organization but they encourage students to become engaged in the community. They’re a Big Deal in New Westminster, and Lalji definitely gains support because of it.

She also works at Key West Ford, which is a major sponsor of a number of festivals and events in New Westminster. Hell, she’s their Public Relations Manager, so you know she’s got contacts with the community through that. A community that actually knows someone is more likely to support them, and this is Lalji’s strength.

A friend of mine asked me if I thought the blowback from The Machine would be as bad if Lalji was the endorsed candidate. I think it would have still been there, but not nearly as strong. There are people who are going to vote against the NWDLC-endorsed candidate no matter what. You can’t appease them, so there’s no sense in trying. But Lalji comes from outside the labour camp. She’s not a union member like Beattie is. She has strong ties to local organizations and businesses that have nothing to do with labour. There are people I know who are big backers of Hyack Football who are likely going to vote for Lalji because of that, and with an NWDLC endorsement I think they still would, because the NWDLC endorsement would have less influence than her ties to Hyack Football or other community outreach she’s done. She could have easily said “look, the NWDLC endorsement is nice because it shows I have progressive ideas, but my strength comes from my community ties”, which would have been a good way to defuse any naysayers.

Lalji’s true endorsement comes from her ties to the community and not the NWDLC. Having both endorsements would have been powerful, and if the NWDLC interviewed and rejected her, I think that’s a mistake on their part.

So now the only real differentiation between the two candidates is their backers. Lalji is backed by a large part of the community of New Westminster, and Beattie is endorsed by the NWDLC and not much of the community. All things being equal, this by-election is Hyack Football vs. The Machine.

So here’s my prediction: in this by-election I think that the NWDLC endorsement of Dee Beattie will be a larger negative than it was perceived to be in previous elections. I don’t see Mary Lalji losing this election.

Please note that this isn’t me endorsing Mary Lalji. I believe that voting is a personal and private matter, and I’m not going to tell you who I’m going to vote for. I also believe in the Dogwood’s Initiative’s views on endorsements: read the facts, make up your own mind, and most importantly go vote for the candidate you believe in and not the candidate someone tells you to vote for.

New Westminster has been waiting for a new high school for a very long time. We’ve been told time and time again that a new school is coming, that NWSS is at the top of the Ministry of Education’s priorities, and we just need to be patient.

But should we be patient? Should we trust people who tell us to wait and that the new school is coming?

In 2005 the provincial government announced $52 million in funding for a new school. Demolition actually started, but was halted nearly immediately when workers disturbed asbestos. The school district was fined $75,000 by WorkSafe BC for this. The $52 million disappeared in a similar cloud of dust. (Update: Kelly Slade-Kerr comments below that the asbestos case was actually from a room renovation, not premature school demolition, and that there were other reasons behind the funding disappearing.)

In 2007 board chair Michael Ewen said that there were positive talks with the provincial government and hoped that there would be good news on funding. There was to be no funding.

In June 2015 the school district received a letter from the Ministry of Education saying the ministry “hoped to be in a position to request funding from the provincial treasury within six to eight weeks” and that a funding decision would be announced by November. There was no funding announcement.

On April 4 2016 Mike Bernier, the Minister of Education, said that NWSS was his ministry’s top priority and that a decision would be made in the “coming weeks”. Since then the “number 1 priority right now in the Ministry of Education’s office right now” has been leapfrogged by $149 million in other capital projects and upgrades announced by the Ministry of Education.

New Westminster’s School District 40 and the BC Ministry of Education have problems with deadlines and “trust us” statements. A new high school has been on-again off-again for over a decade. A middle school that was promised to be finished by 2009 not only missed that target, but missed its 2015 opening date as well. Qayqayt Elementary only opened “on time” because of the teachers’ strike that took out the first three weeks of the 2014-2015 school year, allowing them to finish construction. And even then, exterior construction wasn’t finished, and the school was officially opened six months late.

So when Mike Bernier says that an announcement is coming in the “coming weeks”, I don’t trust him. When Mike Bernier says that he hopes to be able to give some certainty before the end of the school year, I don’t believe him. We’ve heard school district chairs say good news is coming for years now.

So what will it take? What will it take for me to believe that New Westminster is getting a new high school?

It won’t be the announcement of funding, because we’ve heard that before.

It won’t be the beginning of demolition, because we’ve seen that before.

At this point the only thing that will make me believe we’re actually getting a new high school in New Westminster is when the first student enters the doors to learn at that new high school.

It’s not that we can’t trust the provincial government. It’s not that we can’t trust the Minister of Education. It’s not that we can’t trust the school district and school trustees.

It’s that they’ve all forced us to not believe in them. Why should now be any different from 2005? Or 2007? Or 2009? You say “trust us” and “be patient”, but why?

I asked some questions of the two school trustee candidates in the upcoming by-election, and Mary Lalji answered them!

Question: New Westminster Secondary School is going to be rebuilt one way or another within the next decade. One of the challenges with the site is the Douglas Road Cemetery under the existing high school. When the current NWSS is bulldozed, this will undoubtedly anger the spirits and unleash them on New Westminster. My question for the candidates is this: name three people who will join you as Ghostbusters to save our city.

Answer: The highly trained ghostbusters themselves, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray of course!

Question: Concussions and other repeated head blows in football and rugby have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), leading to player suicides, memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has been sued by ex-players because of this link. High school students are more likely to suffer concussions, and seven died in the US in 2015 from concussion-related injuries. What will you do to ensure the safety of NWSS students playing football, rugby, and other heavy contact sports?

Answer: First of all, there is no rugby program at NWSS, just football and lacrosse as far as contact sports are concerned. Fortunately, my husband Farhan has been on the front lines of the concussion issue for football both at NWSS and provincially and has implemented a number of initiatives to improve the care of the kids playing the sport. Provincially while he was president of the BC Secondary Schools football association, they implemented mandatory baseline testing for all players, adopted a medical policy which included re-return to play protocol, higher standards of medical qualifications for all sideline medical staff, and increased education and awareness for players, coaches and parents. Currently a newly formed safety committee is recommending contact limits during practices, designed to reduce the amount of head contact exposures over the course of a week and season. Locally at NWSS, the football program was the first in BC to purchase a new product called guardian caps, a padded helmet cap used in practice that reduces the force of contact by over 30%. Also, all of our coaches have been certified in the “Safe Contact” program through the Canadian Association of Coaches, teaching contact without using the head. In addition, while some programs have trainers present for only games, our program has qualified people on the sidelines for every practice, and they all take a very cautious approach with potential head injuries. Total number of concussions in 2015 was just 3, and more importantly, NO repeated concussions, which is where the CTE danger come into play.

There is no question that football, like all contact sports, has associated risks, but we are doing everything in our power at NWSS to put our kids in the safest possible position. And it’s also important to note the number of low risk activities that result in head injuries (eg. Cycling, playground, etc) as a recent Vancouver Province article outlines.

Question: Parents in the West End of New West are asking for some sort of solution for getting their children to Fraser River Middle School. This is a two part question: 1. How boring is the name “Fraser River Middle School” on a range of watching paint dry to school trustee by-election? 2. Do you support Queensborough parents of NWSS students in telling West End parents to fuck off?

Answer: 1. Port Coquitlam High School was renamed after Terry Fox, who gave of himself for all after him. Maybe this might be an option in New West for the Fraser River School. 2. You seem like a very brilliant writer. I am sure there are many other more descriptive words to use instead of profanity.

Question: What will you do to ensure parents continue to be punished for daring to have children who get sick?

Answer: As a parent whose kids get sick and that I always get sick from them, I think that is punishment enough.

Question: After NWSS, what do you feel are the priorities for capital projects in SD40?

Answer: There is a Capital plan. Every district must submit a capital needs list on a yearly basis. The ministry has the final say on which of the projects submitted get approved. The next school to be seismically upgraded is McBride and then Howay. Neither has been funded, as yet, by the provincial government.

However every parent should know how safe seismically their school is and you will ask the secretary treasurer to release the information to each school PAC.

Question: What restaurant would you like to see in the Anvil Centre?

Answer: Anything that is really tasty.

There you have it! Thanks to Mary Lalji for answering all of my questions. You can follow Mary on Twitter at @MaryLaljiNW or visit her website at marylalji.ca.

I asked some questions of the two school trustee candidates in the upcoming by-election, and Dee Beattie answered them!

Question: New Westminster Secondary School is going to be rebuilt one way or another within the next decade. One of the challenges with the site is the Douglas Road Cemetery under the existing high school. When the current NWSS is bulldozed, this will undoubtedly anger the spirits and unleash them on New Westminster. My question for the candidates is this: name three people who will join you as Ghostbusters to save our city.

Answer: My ghostbuster friends I will invite all of the Lumineers.  I don’t know them personally but their new CD is totally awesome.

Question: Concussions and other repeated head blows in football and rugby have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), leading to player suicides, memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has been sued by ex-players because of this link. High school students are more likely to suffer concussions, and seven died in the US in 2015 from concussion-related injuries. What will you do to ensure the safety of NWSS students playing football, rugby, and other heavy contact sports?

Answer: My son played football of of his youth, and luckily he never was seriously injured.  He quit the team when he realized he did not like getting hurt and I was okay with that.

The information is emerging on the injuries and consequences of the injuries that happen in these sports, so I would like to listen to the research and know more before we made big changes in this area. I think I need to listen to the recommendations of experts and doctors on how changes can be implemented.

Question: Parents in the West End of New West are asking for some sort of solution for getting their children to Fraser River Middle School. This is a two part question: 1. How boring is the name “Fraser River Middle School” on a range of watching paint dry to school trustee by-election? 2. Do you support Queensborough parents of NWSS students in telling West End parents to fuck off?

Answer: 1. The Fraser River Middle School.  I totally love the name of this school.  Did you know that I grew up in New West on McDonald St?   Our front room window faced the Fraser River.  My father was a Dutch immigrant to Canada.  His chair sat at the corner of the window facing the river. As a young child I remembered him saying that he was the luckiest man in the world because every day he could look at the most mighty magnificent river in the world.   He felt he had a million dollar view in his $4,000 dollar home.   We had that as a family home for over 30 years.    When my dad died in 1997 my brother and I took a few of his ashes and sprinkled them in the Fraser River.  It was a small tribute to a man who loved that river.  I have no problem with the name of the school.

2. I need to look into this problem and understand it more.  I don’t know what has been done. what planning went into this, and what are some good options.  Tonight I was door knocking in The West End and heard the concerns from many families.  I heard frustration.  A few parents I spoke to have a good solution to get their children to school and a few parents are frantic.  I don’t have the answers to help with this, but I will try my best to understand and appropriately advocate.

Question: What will you do to ensure parents continue to be punished for daring to have children who get sick?

Answer: My background is working in schools, and I think this is a standard policy. I think it is more about protecting the liability of a school district if something goes wrong. Schools are a busy place and if no procedure is put in place it is easy for the safeguards to not be there. To take on the liability of medicating someones child is serious when you have no medical background.

Question: After NWSS, what do you feel are the priorities for capital projects in SD40?

Answer: Seismic Upgrading of all schools is a Priority. Did you know I went to Sir Richard McBride as a child? I would hope to see McBride upgraded and saved. I love bigger older schools. New schools classrooms are small and common areas even smaller. The Stage in the gym disappears in new schools. Having a stage with curtains is like magic to children. The art of Drama belongs on a stage like McBride has! McBride is a Sapperton pride and has valuable heritage. If I can advocate to make that school a lasting piece of history that would be nice!

Question: What restaurant would you like to see in the Anvil Centre?

Answer: I loved taking my 2 boys to ChuckECheese. That could be a great family family fun destination. Just think a restaurant and game centre. ChuckECheese has my vote.

There you have it! Thanks to Dee Beattie for answering all of my questions. You can follow Dee on Twitter at @deelightful or visit her website at deebeattie.ca.

Good news everyone! New Westminster is having another election! This time it’s a by-election to elect a new school trustee after MaryAnn Mortensen resigned back in March! In case you can’t tell, I’m excited! I’m putting in more exclamation marks to make you excited too! OH BOY SCHOOL TRUSTEE BY-ELECTION HOW CAN YOU NOT BE PUMPED UP??!?!?!!!

Anyhow.

It’s my job to come up with satirical questions for any and all candidates that we get for any and all elections in New Westminster. I’ve had a hard time coming up with any good questions (my wife came up with the first one), so this time around I’m actually going to ask a mix of satirical and serious questions for Mary Lalji and Dee Beattie. It’s up to you, my loyal reader, to figure out which is which. Satirical and serious, not Mary and Dee. Although you will have to figure out which is Mary and which is Dee when you vote, you can’t just go “eh I don’t care”.

  1. New Westminster Secondary School is going to be rebuilt one way or another within the next decade. One of the challenges with the site is the Douglas Road Cemetery under the existing high school. When the current NWSS is bulldozed, this will undoubtedly anger the spirits and unleash them on New Westminster. My question for the candidates is this: name three people who will join you as Ghostbusters to save our city.
  2. Concussions and other repeated head blows in football and rugby have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), leading to player suicides, memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has been sued by ex-players because of this link. High school students are more likely to suffer concussions, and seven died in the US in 2015 from concussion-related injuries. What will you do to ensure the safety of NWSS students playing football, rugby, and other heavy contact sports?
  3. Parents in the West End of New West are asking for some sort of solution for getting their children to Fraser River Middle School. This is a two part question:
    1. How boring is the name “Fraser River Middle School” on a range of watching paint dry to school trustee by-election?
    2. Do you support Queensborough parents of NWSS students in telling West End parents to fuck off?
  4. What will you do to ensure parents continue to be punished for daring to have children who get sick?
  5. After NWSS, what do you feel are the priorities for capital projects in SD40?
  6. What restaurant would you like to see in the Anvil Centre?

You can send your answers to me at brad.cavanagh@gmail.com. Thanks in advance!

Update: They answered! Here are Dee Beattie’s answers and here are Mary Lalji’s answers. Thanks to both of you for responding!

In 1890 David McLaughlin purchased some land in New Westminster near the newly-created Moody Park. It’s rumoured that he, being a ship’s carpenter and handy with building things out of wood, built the house that still stands on that property today at 1031 Sixth Avenue. The house is typical of those of the time, in a simplified Queen Anne style with ‘Victorian’ features such as an asymmetrical floorplan, bay windows with decorative cast iron cresting, and mansard roofs.

It’s also remained relatively untouched over its 125-year lifetime, with the only major renovation being the addition of a workshop by McLaughlin himself in 1915.

David McLaughlin House at 1031 Sixth Avenue, New Westminster
David McLaughlin House at 1031 Sixth Avenue, New Westminster

So when the current owner wanted to expand living space for his family, he applied for a demolition permit to build a larger house on the site. As the house is on the City of New Westminster’s Heritage Register the permit was immediately put on hold pending the issuance of a building permit that authorizes the construction of a building to replace the building that is being demolished (City of New Westminster Heritage Procedures Bylaw No. 7606, 2013). This brought the pending demolition to the city’s attention, and council directed city staff to determine how the heritage house could be saved.

The owner of the property then agreed to enter a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA), and had plans developed that would move the heritage house to the rear of the lot and raise it by 11 inches to allow for a new foundation and crawl space, and adding a new house at the front of the lot. The new house would be approximately 2160 square feet (footprint of 887 square feet), with the heritage house being approximately 1500 square feet (footprint of 800 square feet). These plans are found in the March 14, 2016 Council meeting minutes.

These plans didn’t meet all of the criteria for a standard HRA, as the heritage house would become “subordinate” to the new house. Also, it’s roughly twice the size of what a standard laneway house would be and it wouldn’t visually address the lane behind the property. Despite these shortcomings, city staff recommended that the HRA continue through the process as it would protect the historically significant house.

The application was then reviewed by the Moody Park Residents’ Association at a meeting on March 31, 2016. At this meeting, and I quote from the New Westminster Council meeting agenda from April 18, 2016:

Concerns were expressed about the size (height and massing) of the historic house, its setback from the lane, the over view into the neighbours’ rear yards from the historic house, and allowing two houses on one property with its accompanying higher density. Many were concerned that this proposal would set a precedent for future laneway houses. Some expressed concern about the lack of off-street parking and others about the low visibility of the heritage house from the street if it were relocated to the rear of the lot.

The Moody Park Residents’ Association then voted against the application.

Because of this lack of support from the neighbourhood, the owner is withdrawing the HRA and is renewing his request for a demolition permit, which New Westminster Council granted.

New Westminster residents have been crying out about heritage houses being torn town in our city for years now. People always complain when an old house is torn down to have a larger house be built in its place. So when it comes time to preserve a historically significant house, one that was built before 1900, you would think that people would jump at the chance. Unfortunately the NIMBYs in Moody Park don’t seem to care about preserving the history in our city. They would rather complain that the house already on the property is too high and would overlook their back yards more than it already does, even though the house would be positioned such that walls with fewer windows would have faced the closest properties. They would rather complain about a lack of off-street parking because they might lose one or two on-street parking spots. They would rather complain about low visibility of the historic house, even though the alternative is demolishing the historic house.

I highly suspect that the major driver behind this is the ongoing Official Community Plan consultations. A few months ago the president of the MPRA got a bunch of Moody Park residents’ hackles up when he sent out an email and handed out pamphlets strongly implying that the city was planning to force laneway houses (or worse — QUADPLEXES AND TOWNHOUSES!) down their throats after the OCP had finished. This resulted in a huge amount of pushback from Moody Park residents against the entire densification story that’s hitting Metro Vancouver lately, and this is seen here as well. I quote again: “Many were concerned that this proposal would set a precedent for future laneway houses.” I would love to check the MPRA’s minutes for this meeting but unfortunately they’re stuck in 1991 and don’t have a website.

So instead of preserving a house that was built 125 years ago by moving it and adding a single house to the neighbourhood, Moody Park Residents’ Association members would rather see that historical house be demolished.

van-der-beek-slow-clap

Okay, this post is going to have a little bit of swearing in it, so if that offends you, fuck off.

What the fuck, BC Liberals? Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK. For the love of god what do you have against the children of New Westminster? Since fucking 2003 you’ve said that the 70-year old school is going to be replaced. It was a major part of your 2005 re-election campaign — a promise of $52 million to build a new school on the site. But then Liberal MLA Joyce Murray got defeated and I guess you said “fuck off” to New Westminster? Is that the type of government you are? Are you really that petty?

Seriously Christy Clark, you were the fucking Minister of Education in 2003. A shitty Minister of Education, but still Minister of Education. You fucking well know how long this has been going on for.

Since then we’ve had seven Ministers of Education. Three of them have visited NWSS. Three of them have seen the peeling lead-based paint. Three of them have seen signs of rot and decay. I’m sure none of them have seen the rats or asbestos, but those are in NWSS too.

And this has been going on for years. Hell, this news story came out in 2007, and it described NWSS as “rapidly decaying” and “languishing from benign neglect and getting worse every day”. This is how the reporter started the story:

It looks like an abandoned building – construction tape held up by an umbrella, flag tattered, paint peeling. The front sign is busted, but inside 2000 students are getting an education.

What the actual fuck. Almost a decade later and the “rapidly decaying” school isn’t magically better, you know. And now Mike Bernier has come out, toured the school, and sent a nice little letter saying that “the Ministry is optimistic this project will receive funding support….” And the School Board says that they are optimistic that a funding announcement by government will take place very soon.

FUCK THAT. We’ve heard that too many times in the past. We’ve had fucking funding lined up and then had it pulled. And now you’re “optimistic”. Listen, we heard that back in 2007 too, when the School Board said there were “positive talks with the provincial government” and “hope by early next month there will be good news on funding.” Pardon me if I’m pessimistic about this “optimism”.

Jesus Christ. There’s three and a half billion dollars to build a fucking bridge but not a hundred million (oh yes that’s gone up in the decade since you asshole Liberals made it a campaign promise) to build a school for our children?

Just fucking rebuild NWSS already!

If you’re as pissed off about this whole shitshow from the BC Liberals, attend the rally on Sunday, April 10 at noon, and sign Judy Darcy’s petition. Do it now.

If you remember back to October 2015 you’ll remember that TransLink proposed some changes to New Westminster’s community shuttle routes. I was largely in favour of the changes, and a couple of people suggested modifications to the C9 route so that the current C3 stop on Jameison Court wouldn’t be lost.

Good news! TransLink released the Transit Network Consultation report today, and the New Westminster community shuttle routes will be changed to match those modifications, and the C9 route will be re-routed to include the Jameison Court stop!

This is great news. Transit service to Victoria Hill will hopefully be more consistent and reliable. Transit service linking Royal Square Mall and Royal City Centre / Uptown is restored. Jameison Court’s stop isn’t removed, although it looks like the C9’s frequency of service isn’t being increased from it’s currently hourly service, so this is probably a net loss of service to that stop.

All told this looks like a pretty decent win for transit service in New Westminster.

My daughter has bronchitis. She has a prescription of Amoxicillin that she needs to take three times a day: morning, lunch time, and evening. She goes to school in New Westminster.

The requirement that she takes her medication while at school means that we, as parents, need to jump through all kinds of frustrating and punishing hoops.

First, there’s a policy that states that unless it’s an emergency (and antibiotics don’t count), designated staff can only administer medication to students if:

  1. The medication is required while the child is attending school.
  2. The parent has completed a Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  3. The physician who prescribed this medication signs the Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  4. The parent completes a Medical Alert Form that’s attached to the Pupil Record Card.
  5. The designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

Yes, seriously, the Student Heath & Safety Accident & Sickness Procedures, written to support Board Policy Number 504, states that the designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

That little bit of nonsense is beside the point, however. The chief problem is that these hoops are extremely onerous on parents. First, you have to know about this policy. The only way you can even hope to figure this out is by going to the School District 40 website, searching for “medication“, finding a single link to Lord Kelvin’s parent information page (really?), which then talks about the Request for Administration of Medication at School form, which is only available at the school office. Is that only for Lord Kelvin? Only for elementary schools? Who knows!

For some reason this search doesn’t tie into the actual Board Policies, because if you want to do a search of those you need to download a PDF of every policy and then search through that. Welcome to the 20th century. I’m shocked that we don’t need to fax the form in too.

So, here’s why these policies are overly onerous. About 15% of Canadians over 12 don’t have a family doctor. We don’t. We have to go to a drop-in clinic to see a doctor. A doctor at a drop-in clinic prescribed my daughter’s medications. If we had known about this Request for Administration of Medication in School form we might have stood a chance of getting it filled out at the time of prescription, but that would have entailed a) knowing about the form, and had we known about it, b) dragging a sick and infectious child to school that she’s too infectious to attend to pick up a form. Oh, never mind that she was sick last week, during spring break, and the school was closed so we couldn’t pick up the form in the first place.

Now to get the prescribing doctor to sign the form, one of us has to take time off work to go to the clinic (because this doctor only works mornings) and hope that when our name is called we can see that doctor. You see, at that clinic when a doctor is working drop-in hours you can’t make an appointment to see them, so you roll the dice and hopefully you get the specific doctor. If you don’t, I don’t know what happens, you wait even longer, taking even more time off work.

Okay, so suppose you just want to send your child with their medication and allow them to take the medication themselves? Not allowed. Medication isn’t allowed in the classroom, and it can’t be stored in the staff lounge either without this Request for Administration of Medication in School form.

But you know what you can do? Have a complete stranger come in and give your child their medication. Honest to god as long as you call the school and say “Joe Smith is going to give my daughter medication” that’s allowed. Of course, as a parent you can do that as well, but this unduly punishes the working parent who works in a different city, works at an inflexible job, or for any other reason they may be unable to get to the school to administer medication.

Even getting the form punishes working parents as well. We drop our daughter off at daycare around 7:30 am (before the school office is open) and pick her up after 5:15 pm (after the school office is closed) because we work. How are we supposed to get this important form without taking time off work? It’s punitive, it’s backwards, and it’s stupid. Join the 21st century and put the PDF on the SD40 website for crying out loud.

I know some of the School Board trustees for SD40. They’re great people, and they’re extremely focused on improving education for every child in New Westminster. But seriously, School District 40 is the single-most frustrating institution I’ve had to deal with in the past five years. Their policies are stupid and generally lack common sense (the first one I railed about was one that said that a drivers licence couldn’t be proof of residency, yet a vehicle insurance bill was), their website is outdated and difficult to navigate, and there seems to be this culture of doing everything to the letter of the policy. I don’t know if people at SD40 are generally concerned with covering their asses or getting sued or some other such nonsense, but as a parent it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with.

This medication situation is the latest hot mess, and I just know that it won’t be the last.

Oh, and if you’re a parent of a child in New Westminster School District 40 and you’ve come across this post and have some of the same frustrations we do, here’s the Request for Administration of Medication at School form (obtained 29 March 2016, may be out of date depending on when you’re reading this post).