More than 200 Sikh students in Vancouver need to find a new school. The Khalsa School on Prince Albert St was the first ever of its kind in BC when it was established in 1986.
And now, after 27 years and an ever-growing enrolment — now at 213 students — principals and parents are afraid the religious school will be no more after the Vancouver School Board didn’t renew its lease.
Jaswinder Gill, vice-president of the parent advisory council, is worried her two children, along with many other Indo-Canadian students, risk losing their culture if the school closes.
The Khalsa School provides the standard Ministry of Education curriculum, and also offers classes on their religion, culture and language.
"(Vancouver’s Khalsa School) should be here forever because we as the Indo Canadian community in the Lower Mainland definitely need an institution,” said Gill. “Once this is taken over, it’s gone – that’s it. We have nothing for our future generation.
"It is a very good school, education is very good, the teachers are great, everything is so good.”
The school has been leasing the property from the school board for the past three years, and principal Jasbir Bhatia assumed they would sign on for another year like they always have.
“They always extend the lease so we were very hopeful they will extend it,” he said.
But according to VSB spokesman Kurt Heinrich, they’ve been clear it was only a temporary arrangement and now they need the property back in order to house their students as they undergo upgrades at 42 of their schools.
“At the end of the day we need to focus on our kids and our students – make sure they have a good safe place to learn,” he said.
The Khalsa School needs to vacate by July 2013, but Bhatia has been trying to arrange a meeting with trustees to see if there are any other options, like leasing another property.
But Heinrich said the board has already looked into that and “there just isn’t another spot in the district that can be used or shared with the Khalsa school.”
Which means the Vancouver campus will have to close, said Bhatia, and students and families are left with the only option of transferring to their Surrey locations.
But Bhatia doesn’t think many families would be willing — which is the case for Gill.
“I’m very much against sending them so far,” she said. “By the time they get there, by the time they get home they’ll be so tired.”
So her only option is to transfer her children to local public schools.
“We would like to keep our students,” said Bhatia. “There’s no other Sikh school in Vancouver – this is the only one.”