York House School has been a part of the Shaughnessy community for close to 85 years.
We will always remain a small school in the heart of the City focused on providing a progressive education for girls that equips them for the future.
In 2015, in consultation with students, staff, and teachers, we developed a Master Plan that will guide the development of our learning environment over the next 15 years. Focused on education, this Master Plan provides a long-term view of our learning spaces that will give us the potential to offer a greater breadth of academic, co-curricular, and athletic programs.
In December 2017, as part of our long-term planning, we submitted a rezoning application to the City of Vancouver, which supports our proposed Master Plan.
Applying for a rezoning was the next logical step in the process of bringing our strategic priorities (YHS 2030) to life through our master plan.
As part of our rezoning application, we requested changes to the permitted building area, height, student capacity, community use, and traffic improvements that would provide us with certainty and predictability around the future development plans of YHS.
A Master Plan considers the school property as a whole rather than individual buildings at one time. It provides a long-term vision of the current and future learning environment of our school and takes into consideration the curricular and co-curricular programming needs and maps it to floor spaces, floor area, buildings, grounds, and layout.
The Master Plan is a long-term plan that takes into account the future learning needs of our students - as far as 5, 10, and 15 years from now. Our primary focus is to both enhance existing programs and offer a wider breadth of programming to our students. It would also enable us to provide more flexible learning spaces and enable us to realize the strategic objectives outlined in YHS 2030.
In 2015, the YHS Board of Governors approved going forward with the development of a campus master plan and beginning the process of applying for rezoning. Acton Ostry Architects has developed a conceptual Master Plan, which was first informed by the development of a Master Program. Together with Acton Ostry, RPG Consultants led 27 focus groups, conducted surveys, and hosted a number of Town Hall sessions to garner feedback from students, faculty and staff. This feedback was used to determine our future learning needs across all grades. Based on this resulting Master Program, Acton Ostry has created a conceptual Master Plan which explores the full potential of our learning environment on the YHS campus for years to come. The Board of Governors, together with the YHS Administration team, have been instrumental in shepherding this process.
In order to move forward in support of this Master Plan, we needed to first submit a rezoning application to the City of Vancouver that would allow us to consider expanding current facilities as well as to potentially increasing enrolment incrementally over the next 10 years. This would enable us to offer courses that students desire (business, robotics, programming, culinary arts, etc.) but are currently not being offered due to restrictions of learning spaces, schedules, and student numbers in the Senior School.
In addition, the Master Program identified that a larger gymnasium space and larger and improved cafeteria space were strong desires of both students and staff. A space for culinary arts where the students will have opportunities to learn about nutrition and how to prepare and cook healthy snacks and meals. A larger kitchen and cafeteria would also provide a wider variety of healthy foods, including grab and go, and enable all staff and students to eat together at noon. The increased space that we have requested as part of our rezoning application would allow for these improvements.
We specifically asked to increase our site coverage, increase our floor space ratio (FSR), raise height restrictions, change the south side yard setback, increase the number of students over time by 15%, and to extend the use of our space to the wider community when it makes sense to do so (community events, debate camps/competitions, athletic events, etc).
In 2013, we only rebuilt part of our Senior School. This is the first time that York House School has developed a Master Plan that encompasses the needs of our entire property far into the future.
Two of our four strategic priorities are to focus on offering our students transformational and experiential learning opportunities as well as teaching and learning innovation. Our Master Plan, when completed, will address our learning needs, for the next 15 years and beyond.
Currently, we are faced with challenges with regard to the flexibility of our programming and schedules (limited space means that practice times for our athletes and our musicians are very restrictive and often girls are at school very early and very late).
As part of the City’s approval of our rezoning application in 2018, we will be able to increase our student numbers by no more than 15% over time (90 students). An increase in student numbers will allow us to offer a need to explore increasing wider breadth of programming for all students. To do this, we also need the space to accommodate more students.
York House School will always be a small school, in the heart of the city, that provides a progressive, values-based education for girls. We intend to maintain small class sizes as it allows us to personalize learning and meet the unique needs of each girl.
An increase in our overall student numbers will happen over time and will not result in an increase in individual class sizes. A modest increase in overall student numbers will allow us to offer a wider variety of subject specific classes. For example, we would be able to offer more of the courses that both students and families have been asking for, such as more international languages, physics, business and computer science, particularly for our Grade 11 and 12 students.
We want our learning spaces to support the best education possible and that means, creating a flexible and dynamic 21st Century learning environment. At this stage, the Master Plan is solely a conceptual representation of the learning environment that would be needed to accommodate the programs and innovative learning spaces that would enable us to enact our strategic priorities outlined in YHS 2030.
There will be many steps prior to getting to the point of construction. Ongoing and active communication will be a priority every step along the way. It will first be necessary for the Board of Governors to review and approve the next steps proposed by the Master Planning Committee. Once Board approval is received, our architectural team will revisit the Master Plan for any updates and proposed architectural plans.
The intent is for the Master Plan to be built in multiple phases of which there are currently four. The intent is to space the phases so that there are no more than 1.5 to 2 years of construction for each phase to minimize any disruption to the school and the adjacent neighbourhood.
We are at the very preliminary stages of the Master Plan and do not know what the cost of any redevelopment will be. The City of Vancouver’s approval process includes a number of steps. Now that our rezoning application has been approved, the next step will be to complete program verification which will give our faculty and staff the opportunity to reaffirm and make suggested changes to the original master plan that was developed in 2015.
Most of the concerns that we have heard from our neighbours have been with regard to traffic and noise. We have hired traffic consultants Bunt & Associates who conducted a transportation study on October 4, 2016, which monitored pedestrians and vehicles coming to and leaving the school.
The school has been part of this community for over 80 years and is committed to proactively addressing any issues that neighbours may have. We are also working closely with Shaughnessy Elementary and Little Flower Academy to address any common traffic issues in the neighbourhood.
The centre building between the Junior School and the Senior School where we have proposed an expanded gymnasium, a dining hall, a rooftop garden area, and additional classroom spaces would be the first priority. This expanded facility would offer significant benefits to our girls. Right now we have only one gymnasium for 600 girls, which presents many scheduling challenges for recreational and competitive sports as well as Physical Education classes. Girls having to start school very early and sometimes stay very late. We could use the field and other spaces for athletics activities during construction. This additional space would also allow us to have a dining hall that would accommodate all students, staff, and faculty at one time. Our senior students, many who arrive early for music, would no longer have to wait until 1:00 pm to have lunch. In addition, building the centre structure first will allow for easier phasing and transitions for any future buildings. Phase I would act as a “swing space” for future activities to take place as subsequent phases are developed, minimizing the displacement of learning spaces.
This is an absolute priority for us. Our Senior School has been built to the equivalent of LEED Gold standard, following best practices in sustainable design. We are already working with environmental consultants as part of our rezoning application. As a large site, the City of Vancouver already has some sustainability metrics that they expect us to meet. We also want to have the opportunity to present our buildings as learning opportunities for our students as we implement sustainability measures such as rainwater capture, solar heating, etc.
Funding will come from the generous support of our community as part of a capital campaign. This is not something that would begin until we are much further along in the process. Right now we are simply seeking the approval of our rezoning application so that we know what opportunities we can explore for the future of the school.
Our next step is to return to the Master Plan and complete program verification with our faculty and staff. Following program verification we need to enact our rezoning application with the City and then apply for a development permit followed by a building permit. It is to be expected that there will be a lot of iterative design changes along the way in the process that will be approved by the Board of Governors.
We believe that with the current proposal we would be able to complete Phase I (gymnasium and dining hall) and Phase II (Fine Arts wing) with minimal disruption to daily life at the school. Phases III (new Science wing) and IV (Junior School improvements) would be many years away.
We are excited to be sharing YHS 2030: Shaping Our Future Together with you. In this document, we outline our vision for the future and introduce our strategic directions for York House School.
With a view to the future, YHS 2030 is the culmination of the feedback that we received from our community consultation process that began in Spring 2015. We started with a simple premise: to explore what the 2016 Kindergarten class, the graduates of 2030, will need to be successful in life. YHS 2030: Shaping Our Future Together is a direct response to this question. We have an exciting road ahead of us, and we look forward to sharing our journey with you!
In December 2015, as part of our long-term planning, we submitted a rezoning application to the City of Vancouver, which supports our proposed Master Plan. We invite you to view the presentation boards above that we shared with our community during the City-Led Open House on April 3, 2017, which outlines the next steps in our process.