Vancouver, BC: Khalsa elementary students expect to return to their Prince Albert street school site by December after a blaze largely destroyed their school this summer. Eight of 10 portables, which comprised the school on the East Side property at 5987 Prince Albert St., were gutted in the July 30 fire which forced students to start classes elsewhere this September.
Kindergarten to Grade 3 students are being taught in space within the Khalsa Darbar temple on Prince Edward Street while they wait for the reopening. Grades 4 to 7 students are being ferried out to the school’s Surrey campus.
Khalsa schools, which teach Punjabi, Sikh history and religion, and Gurbani, Kirtan and Sikh culture, are sponsored by the Satnam Education Society of British Columbia. The Satnam Education Society has leased the Prince Albert Street property from the Vancouver School Board since the early 1990s.
It must renew the lease every two years because the VSB may need the property in the future. Board chair Patti Bacchus said John Oliver secondary is near the top of the district’s list for seismic upgrading so the land may be used for swing space when it undergoes renovations. “The idea is to keep options available until the future of John Oliver is determined,” she said.
South Hill Education Centre, an adult education centre, also sits on the property. The Satnam Education Society bought 11 used and empty portables from the Vancouver school district for a nominal fee of $1 each, plus transportation costs, to use as their new school.
The portables were at Trafalgar elementary, but the district was in the process of dismantling them and disposing of them because they required costly structural work before they were habitable for students again.
The deal saved the VSB from the cost of disposal. “We needed the portables off the site so we could get the site ready for back to school,” Bacchus said. “We were basically just trying to be responsive to a community group that was quite upset. We did agree to meet with them and see if we had anything we could do to support them that wouldn’t incur cost to our district. It was quite coincidentally fortunate that we had those portables that were about to be decommissioned and that they decided they could use.”
Minor damage occurred to the exterior of an adjacent VSB-owned gymnasium building during the blaze. Amar Singh Dhaliwal, coordinator for the Khalsa school, said it is home to 115 students. The Prince Albert Street site has been cleared and is ready for the portables once city permits are ready. The school will upgrade the portables so they can be used for classes.
The arsonist hasn’t been caught, but Dhaliwal isn’t worried about vandalism in the future. “We will have better security,” he said of the school’s anticipated December re-opening. “I think it will be OK-we’ll have property security.”
Const. Lindsey Houghton, spokesman for the Vancouver Police Department, said there are no new updates on the arson, which due to the size of the fire has generated a great deal of forensic evidence to analyze. The investigation continues.
Source: Vancouver Courier