We already treasure the value of cross-pollination: Metro Vancouver’s decision-making process already requires Tri-Cities elected officials to serve as members of the Regional Board. Shortly after the 2022 election, one City Council member will be selected to also Chair the Board of Metro Vancouver.
Like many elected officials, in the past 11 years, Zoe Royer served on Metro Vancouver, Fraser Health, and Coquitlam School District committees and task forces. Many Council members have duties with more than one government organization. Experienced and collaborative elected officials bridge the gap between different organizations and provide valuable two-way communications. Dually-elected officials help reduce red tape and clarify misunderstandings in real-time.
The following are some idea sets where a heightened sense of collaboration, commitment and understanding between the School Board and City could make a world of difference...
1. Joint Initiatives
Zoe's election platform highlights a bold, yet timely and important idea that she hopes to champion if elected. Our youth are tomorrow's leaders, and soon enough, all of us will need to depend upon them. It is the formation of a Student Sustainability Council (SSC) as a joint collaboration between our School District and Coquitlam City Council.
The goal is to invite youth into our civic planning process in a bold and meaningful way: Middle and secondary schools in the catchment would each have two student representatives, for a total of 28 students. Assisted by city planning and environmental staff, students would review the city’s climate policy, transportation plans, housing strategies and capital plans, and help shape courageous new policies. Then, they would present their findings to Council on a quarterly basis. This would be transformative for our youth, our community, and our region.
2. The power of MOU's (Memorandums of Understanding)
Rapid joint decision-making would have resolved sewage pollution much sooner for Eagle Mountain School. We expect city and school district problems that overlap to be handled in a timely manner. The mechanism that helped resolve the matter of contaminants seeping onto school grounds at Eagle Mountain Middle was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between government agencies.
Coquitlam Council and our School District Board joined forces at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities conference to ask the Province to allocate funds so new schools get built at the same pace as new neighbourhoods. Even so, the Province was less than eager to guarantee new school funding without a guarantee of growth from the City, and an understanding of enrollment from the School Board.
A signed Memorandum of Understanding between a City and School District would formalize their commitment to work together, strengthening their bid to the Province.
3. Economies of Scale
Opportunities to share purchasing, programming, etc, are seldom if ever discussed between governments. But they could be, and value-added savings could be found.
4. Better use of public assets
Citizens get upset when the City's sports fields and performance halls are at capacity turning away users, when the School fields and halls often sit empty outside of usual school hours. Frank and open conversations about community needs could be happening ongoingly, in a non-confrontational way. It may be that small hurdles can be eased through understanding, that can clear the way for greater inclusivity and capacity of users groups.
5. More opportunities for young people to get involved
When educators and elected officials explore creative ways to work together with young people, something transformative and extraordinary happens. In late 2019, a school counselor reached out to Zoe. The counselor ran leadership programs for students of 5 local schools within SD43, and invited Zoe to meet with her students.
Zoe had the privilege of working with them to help polish their presentation to Tri-City Councils. The students were very concerned about the impacts of plastic pollution on wildlife and ocean health and they hoped meet with local Councils to request a ban of single-use plastics. Following their civic success, the students then pitched their request to Provincial and Federal Ministers. Fast forward to today, this SUPER team of Tri-Cities students were successful in helping to secure new legislation!
6. More liveable communities
A great school can be a tremendous source of pride for a neighbourhood, and a desirable place where couples will want to put down roots and grow families of their own. Having a school nearby, means less dependency on automobiles, and less traffic on the roads. Especially when measures are put in place by the City, by being more involved with the School Board, will be more responsive in ensuring walking routes to schools are comfortable, well lit and well maintained, and have safe and efficient pedestrian crossings. After all, a walkable community is a safer and more liveable community for everyone.
Of course, the physical and mental health benefits of walking to and from school for learners is well-documented. Children who walk to school have been found to have higher academic performance in terms of attention/alertness, verbal, numeric, and reasoning abilities; higher degree of pleasantness and lower levels of stress during the school day; and higher levels of happiness, excitement and relaxation on the journey to school. Walking to school can further foster personal growth by developing a sense of independent decision making, emotional bonds with peers and the natural environment, and road and traffic safety skills.
Active travel is one source of physical activity and with more physical activity comes increased metabolism, improved cardiorespiratory fitness, lower weight and BMI. Compared to children who are driven to school, children who walk are found to be more active overall through other physical activity sources such as organized sport and unstructured ‘active play’.
7. A better education experience overall for learners
When opportunities are created for School Boards and Cities to optimize their planning and communications in real-time, there is less disruption and much benefit to learners. With this in mind, we can better plan for future growth, road repairs, or changes in traffic patterns and congestion that may impact kids getting to school safely and on time.
Over crowding due to the sheer lack of space in a school can have real impacts on learners. Students and teachers say the learning experience in older portables can be compromised due to poor lighting, erratic temperatures, mold, noisy heating and air conditioning. The structures often are relegated to soggy fields or parking lots, near noise and vehicle exhaust.