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Canada Why Didn’t Sikh Independent School Re-open In Vancouver?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
By Veeno Dewan

The B.C. education ministry is looking into why an independent school unexpectedly closed its doors on the first day of classes.

Gates to the school – Guru Nanak Elementary School in south Vancouver – were locked when students arrived on Tuesday. About 75 students as young as five years old were standing outside the school on Southeast Marine Drive holding signs saying “Save our school” on what they expected would be their first day of classes.

Officials with the Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver, which owns the land and the building, said the executive voted on Monday to close the school.
A representative of the society said the operators of the school were warned two years ago that the lease would not be renewed after it expired last year.
Devinder Maan, the principal of the school, disputed the claim, saying he was given verbal assurances the school would be allowed to open this year.

“I am just shocked whereas Sikh community is already struggling to promote culture, religion and moral values and now this education institution is being shut down by Khalsa Diwan Society. Parents are upset and very anxious about it and are looking for an answer from Khalsa Diwan Society executives,” said Maan in a statement on Monday night.

Maan, who helped found the school in 2005, said he was “shocked” when the Khalsa Diwan Society voted 7-6 on Monday night to close the school, with virtually no warning to parents.

Sikh community members said the school has been caught between two rival factions at the temple society who are locked in bitter disputes on a number of issues.

“It is not about money, because the school offered to pay more on our lease and it’s not political because we don’t get involved in petty temple politics,” said Maan, who spent Tuesday in discussion with B.C.’s education ministry and the Khalsa Diwan society, the school’s landlord.

“We teach the B.C. curriculum as well as Sikh language and culture and we have a very good ranking. We asked Khalsa Diwan for a 10-month extension on our lease so we could find another space but they voted against us.”

The facility is a “group one” independent school that gets 50 per cent of its funding from the province, ministry spokeswoman Jennifer McCrea said on Tuesday. The school, which has about 70 students, received $240,000 in provincial funds last year and had been certified to operate until 2017.
The ministry was not given advance notice of the closure and is seeking details from the board that runs the school, Ms. McCrea said.

If the school does not re-open, students are expected to enroll in other independent schools or public schools in the area. The school, approved by the B.C. Education Ministry to operate until at least 2014, offers the provincial curriculum along with specialized cultural Sikh studies.

Parents and Maan had hoped the school could be kept open on compassionate grounds to help students who do not yet have a school placement this year.

B.C. public schools opened on Tuesday for the first day of class as the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation began job action, including cutting back on administrative duties. The teachers’ five-year contract expired in June.




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