Vancouver just opened its first new downtown school in half a century. Elsie Roy Elementary, located right on the False Creek Seawall in the Concord Pacific project, opened its doors on September 7 to 250 children, most of whom could walk to the school from their highrise homes. Many were already familiar with the location, since they likely graduated from the Dorothy Lam Child Care Centre right next door and played in the adjacent park.

School Trustee Andrea Reimer visited the school during its first week, and asked the kids where they lived. Many could point to the windows of their homes from the school grounds, albeit ones that were often hundreds of feet off the ground.

When the Concord Pacific development was being planned, the City insisted on sites for two schools. But the School Board, unsure whether the demand would materialize, was reluctant to build them. Big mistake. It was soon being lobbied by dozens of parents who had counted on the school being ready when their kids came of age – one of the main reasons they had moved downtown.

The School Board now realizes it has to start planning for the next school in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood, given the number of children already there.

Two lessons: If you plan for children, you may get more than you expected. And a neighbourhood that’s good for kids is good for everyone else.

(Vancouver may also learn a third lesson. We’ll be able to compare the kids of Elsie Roy Elementary who can walk, bike and blade to school with those who don’t. Ironically, the former live in a highrise neighbourhood, the latter in the suburbs.)