Skip to content

Guest Post – Building Schools Right – Area Standards in BC

    This guest post was submitted by the Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education (PAN). BCEdAccess recognizes the critical role physical structures and spaces play in accessibility and inclusion for all students and we support PAN’s call to update these Standards.

    Retrieved from the PAN Website Oct 1, 2020

    Area Standards is a government policy that determines the maximum space allocation for all new and replacement schools in BC. 

    BC Area Standards are far below other provinces in per pupil space allowance.

    Under current BC Area Standards, replacement schools are 30% smaller for student populations of the same size. 

    School size and design impacts teaching and learning conditions for all students.

    Under current BC Area Standards, Schools are TOO SMALL.


    ​ BC Area Standards were established by the BC Ministry of Education in 2003, just prior to commitment to the seismic mitigation program.  The Area Standards policy defines eligible space allowances for all new and replacement elementary, middle and secondary schools in BC.
    BC Area standards fall far below area standards in other provinces for space allowance per pupil space.  Even though BC is a world-leader in 21st century curriculum design, the BC Area Standards does not allow sufficient space to build schools that support the teaching and learning goals of the redesigned curriculum. Under the current standards, replacement schools are on average 30% smaller than existing schools for the same size population. Area Standards effectively eliminates non-enrolling spaces for art and music in elementary schools. It also eliminates ‘extra’ storage for PT/OT or any wraparound support services or equipment that could support special needs students.  It also severely restricts space for circulation in schools, that has effect on social wellbeing, germ transmission and a sense of belonging for students within a school. Furthermore, BC Area Standards does not reflect increased space requirements arising from the restored contract language on class size and composition.
    BC is spending billions of taxpayer dollars over the next decade to replace and upgrade seismically unsafe schools and aging infrastructure as well as meeting demand in areas of rapid population growth.  It is imperative that the Area Standards policy is updated to ensure that new schools are not only safe but effective and support the teaching and learning goals of the redesigned BC curriculum.  Other provinces are leading the way in updating area standards to align with 21st century school design principles.
    We believe BC can too.

    We are calling on the provincial government to conduct an area standards review.

    Did you know?


    • has the lowest space allocation per student in both instructional and gross floor area when compared with other provinces
    • does not allocate sufficient space for 21st century school design to support implementation of the redesigned BC curriculum
    • does not allocate space for a sensory room, storage for OT/PT or the creation of innovative learning and recovery spaces to house neuro & physically diverse wraparound supports.
    • does not accommodate specialized hands-on learning spaces for art/science, music or performing arts in elementary schools
    • does not adjust space allocations for multipurpose space and gym in schools to reflect increased school size and higher use needs
    • allocates only half the circulation space (hallways, walls, stairwells, community gathering spaces and entrance way) compared with Ontario and New Brunswick, which is critical to decrease the spread of virus and illness
    • does not allocate space for a staff room or washrooms which means space will be ‘stolen’ from classrooms etc. for essentials like washrooms.
    Bayview Elementary School, Vancouver – relative size of existing and replacement schools under BC Area Standards
    Graphic representation of cross province comparison of area standards for circulation for an elementary school of 350 students.

    What can you do?

    It’s time to update BC’s school design policy. Student success requires the right school facilities.

    In 3 minutes your advocacy action can make a difference for generations of students to come.

    Click PAN’s email tool to tell BC’s government leaders that it’s time to update the school design policy and #BuildSchoolsRight, right now.

    Original Blog post reformatted on October 20, 2019  to increase readability.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.