The use of makeshift cardboard window blinds in the portable classrooms at Samuel Robertson Technical were used as an example of the government’s under-funding of education in the provincial legislature.
On Oct. 28, Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson used question period to tell the minister that teachers at the Maple Ridge high school have been asked to create makeshift window coverings.
“Teachers have been asked if they can find some cardboard, cut it to shape, and prepare it for use as window coverings,” said Robinson.
She said in the event of a lockdown, the teacher is supposed to quickly tack this cardboard up so a potential intruder could not see into the portable classroom.
Robinson then told the minister to admit that the government’s demands for administrative savings are affecting classrooms, and to stop under-funding education.
Education Minister Mike Bernier responded that the government has invested $1.4 billion on school improvements in the past three years, including seismic upgrades.
“It’s unfortunate we always have to hear the NDP besmirch the system,” he added.
Robinson said she wanted to show how ridiculous the situation is getting in schools, due to government under-funding.
She has since been told by the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district that there is enough funding for the blinds.
Irena Pochop of the school district said it is not a funding issue, and the at SRT has a “healthy budget” that it can access to pay for wind coverings.
“The cardboard was put up as a temporary measure while the school works with our facilities department to allocate the funds and order and install the blinds. Our hope is to have new blinds in there within a couple of weeks, though the timeline will unfortunately depend on how long it takes for them to ship.”
She said there were blinds on the windows, but they were damaged and taken down, and the cardboard put up as a temporary measure.
Robinson said school board administrators have been cutting costs for so long, they are scared to spend any money that might be deemed discretionary.
“It’s really not about blinds, it’s about chronic underfunding,” she said. “Everyone is anxious to spend money on the things we need.”
“This is just another example of how crazy it’s getting.”
District Parent Advisory Council president Kim Dumore said the issue was blown out of proportion.
“When the district got wind of it, they dealt with it in a timely manner,” she said. “Safety is of the utmost importance to the district.”
Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra said the public has generally heard about under-funding education, but the cardboard blinds are a “real-life example that can resonate with the public.”
But he called it a minor issue in the big picture of the school district’s under funding by the province.