FAQ

Community Feedback Session #2 日本語訳

Local Community 

Q1. What is exactly “local community”?

A. As an organization that aspires to be inclusive, we have a broad understanding of community that includes everyone who wishes to connect and interact with VJLS-JH and support our goals. Examples of stakeholders we consider to be a part of our community are: students, parents, volunteers, renters, people who are interested in Japanese culture or Japanese Canadian history, and facility users.

Q2. Are local residents in this area are part of our community?

A.VJLS-JH understands that there is significant stigma surrounding the DTES and would like to clarify that the majority of those in our neighbourhood are living in affordable and social housing. We have a role to play in contributing to this neighbourhood and supporting the rich cultural diversity present within it including individuals who identify as Indigenous, Black, Chinese, Japanese, and many other ethnicities, genders, and cultural backgrounds. We have much to learn about these other communities and how we can work together and support one another.

*text in red has been rephrased to be more inclusive

Q3. When you refer to local community, how is the centre going to be engaging with the surrounding community including other cultural communities such as indigenous or Black Canadian, the residents who are vulnerable so that the centre is not an island which is not securely connected and interacting with the surrounding environment?

A. VJLS-JH acknowledges that there is much we still must learn and do to properly engage with and connect with these communities. We greatly appreciate the support of individuals and organizations from these communities that are helping us understand how we can engage with them respectfully.

Recent efforts in this direction include our partnership with Atira Women’s Resource Society to establish a cooling station to provide that has provided local community members – many of whom live in small apartments and are unable to socially distance – with a cool location to relax and socialize safely. Additionally, we have partnered with WePress Community Arts Space whose use of our kitchen has supported them in providing up to 200 hot meals each day for the local community. We will continue to explore opportunities to partner with local community organizations in ways that do not interfere with our programs like Children’s World and VJLS.

Q4. Do we have to open our school and hall in exchange for the service for the local community which includes local residents?

A. As noted in the slides, our current financial strategies for this project are primarily focused on securing government funding and grants. Grants are most issued for a specific purpose and do not force organizations to operate in a particular way. The majority of the grants VJLS-JH has received have been from organizations who wish to support us in preserving and sharing Japanese Canadian culture and history.

*text in red has been rephrased to be more inclusive

Q5. Who is the leader of the project?

A. The Executive Director is the leader of VJLS-JH and they report to the VJLS-JH Board. This Board is chosen and elected by its members who represent the different stakeholder groups the organization engages with. Therefore, the community is what provides the direction and priorities for the organization.

Q6. Regarding the “leader”; why can’t you mention the Project Chair?

A. In the early planning phase, the Interpretive Centre project was led by Laura Saimoto, a Board volunteer. She and many other dedicated volunteers have put a significant amount of effort and time over the last four years into the initial planning and development of this project. With the shift at the Board level from a Working Board to a Governance Board, this work has now become the responsibility of the Executive Director and their team. In moving this project forward, it is important to VJLS-JH that staff and the community have an opportunity to contribute to the project.

Library 

Q7. What percentage of the current books in the library would be lost?

A: We do not have a definitive list of what books we would like to keep or remove. We will work with library committee volunteers to ensure that we hold on to important and popular books and find homes for books that are not a good fit for our library.

Q8. Why are you downsizing (the book collection in the library)?

A: As part of the Interpretive Centre project’s development, a review was done of the different types of books in our library and how often they were taken out. Roughly 1/3 of our 44,000 books were children’s books and 2/3 were for adults. Children’s books represented 70% of the books taken out of the library and only 30% of the books taken out were books for adults. On average, only 31 people used the library each month, taking out 5 books each.

This information shows that the majority of our adult books are not being taken out and that there is a strong demand for children’s books. There is an opportunity to curate our library and provide a more focused and desirable collection of books and reading materials that are of interest to our youth and adult members.

We recognize the importance of having access to Japanese literature however many of our books have not been able to find an audience to read them. We would like to find a better place for them.

4th Floor Classrooms 

Q9. Could you explain more about the 4th Floor business rental plan?

A: Currently our 4th Floor classrooms are only used on Saturday and the occasional weekday evening and on average, our building is 80% under utilized throughout the week. Our goal is to bring in new revenue through renting out these classrooms during times when there are no classes so that we can support future investment in our programs and organization. Our priority is to connect and partner with local partners and community groups as well other educational institutions. Our preference would be to rent to a post-secondary institution that provides early child training as it could provide practicum students for our Children’s World programs. The upgrades to our classrooms this would make possible would be of significant benefit to our own students as well. Early conversations have led to some expression of interest from non-profit and educational partners.

Rentals in General 

Q10. Who would want to rent the office space next to a daycare and preschool?

A: Neighborhood groups who align with the work that we do have shown interest in renting affordable office space. As a long-term strategy, we are exploring opportunities to partner with post-secondary institutions who could operate early childcare education programs and provide practicum students for our daycare and preschool programs.

Q11. What about renting out the space to a Japanese postal service? Like kuroneko/takkubin?

A: Currently, VJLS-JH is a pickup spot for Yamato delivery drivers. VJLS-JH would be open to partnering with not only Japanese postal service companies but other Japanese groups.

Q12. Even we rent out space in our building during the week, won’t we have to spend money on hiring someone to run the business?

A: Currently, we have a Facility Manager who is responsible for managing our rentals.

Q13. What type of rentals or projects is VJLS-JH receiving revenue from right now?

A: The majority of our facility rentals is from community groups who rent from us on a regular and ongoing basis including: Taiko, Kendo, Kyudo, and martial arts groups. Additionally, we rent to local community groups like Atira and Vancouver Coastal Health and to individuals.

Japanese Hall

Q14. Do we have any asbestos in building? How will you prevent the renovations from disrupting students and teachers once in-person classes resume?

A: Based on our research we believe that there is no asbestos as the Hall was built after the use of asbestos was discontinued. Asbestos testing is part of the process used by our flooring company and contractors. We will do our best to schedule construction during times when there are no VJLS-JH programs operating and will find alternative spaces for these programs if disruption is not possible.

Q15. The slides show that there would be monitors inside the Japanese Hall. What are these for and what benefit do they provide?

A: The idea of having monitors in the Japanese Hall is for creating interactive experiences for visitors visiting the hall for historical tours and educational programs. The monitors can also be used a projection screen during rentals. The final design will consider the fact that children will be regularly playing in the hall. All the necessary safety measurement will be established for the monitor area.

Planning

Q16. Why do we have to launch this big community project?

A: The Interpretive Centre is the third and final phase of a project that began over 20 years ago and includes the creation of Children’s World in 2012 and achieving its status as a National Historic Site in 2019. This final phase is of vital importance as the Hall requires considerable repairs and maintenance that had been deferred due to a lack of financial resources in the past.

Q17. Will the slides be available to view sometimes later?

A: Yes.

Q18. Will there be an access to view the proposed ideas and changes on the renovation?

A: Yes, we are working on developing a section of our website where we can share this information. When it is finished, we will share this with everyone.

Q19. Why don’t you create a “drop-box” for sending ideas?

A: This is a fantastic idea and we will work towards implementing this suggestion. When it is available, we will be sure to share how people can access this drop-box and submit their ideas.

Q20. Why can’t we repair the building first and then do this project?

A: Repairs to the building will be quite costly and individual repairs could cost as much as $500,000 or more. We are applying for grants that fund building repairs, however these alone are not enough to fund all of our repair needs. To secure the additional funding needed, we will need to apply for government and foundation grants that support projects with a larger vision centred around preserving and sharing cultural spaces and programming.

Q21. Is it possible to share survey responses?

A: We would be happy to share the information gathered through our survey.

Q22. What is the plan for educational programs?

A: We are committed to continuing to invest in our current educational programs as well as developing new ones. New revenue streams created by this project would support our ability to invest in these programs and create resources for our students and teachers.

Q23. Will the concept art be updated to reflect changes that are made during planning?

A: There is a cost to producing new concept art however we would likely want to produce a final set of concept art once everything has been finalized.

Timeline 

Q24. What timeline is there for finalizing a plan?

A: We believe that consultation is an important part of the process of developing this project and we are committed to holding more staff and community information and consultation sessions over the next two months. We anticipate that we will be able to finalize the project in the early months of 2021 however do not want to rush the consultation process.

Q25. What is the length of the project?

A: We anticipate that the project will be completed in multiple phases with the final timeline being dependent on when we are able to secure funding for the project.

Finance

Q26. How can we generate income from rentals when COVID-19 crisis has greatly impacted the rental market?

A: We have experienced this firsthand as we saw most if not all of our rentals cancelled when COVID-19 first hit. However, slowly, facility rentals have increased with the implementation of physical distancing and other guidelines. As part of our response to COVID-19, we have explored new rental opportunities that have helped support us through this difficult time. This includes our partnerships with Atira to operate a Cooling Station in our Hall and WePress to provide hot meals to local residents. These relationships have helped us recognize that we need to adopt a flexible approach to exploring opportunities in the rental market.

Additionally, we need to think of long-term strategies and this project is intended to not only support our needs right now, but our future needs as well. At a future date we will be able to return to our offices and by preparing now, we can position ourselves to take advantage of this eventual return to work and bring in the revenue we need to support our organization and its programs.

Q27. What is the forecast for revenues for the new updates to the building? Will the building updates end up paying for themselves, or are the school’s existing revenues required to support the updates?

A: We anticipate that there is a potential for $400,000 in additional revenues per year that could be made possible through more efficient usage of our building. Currently, we are only using 20% of our available space on a weekly basis. These revenues would support investments in our ongoing programs like language classes and childcare, new educational programs and community events and programming, and our organizational capacity. As mentioned in Q2 and Q20, this project will be primarily funded through grants.

Q28. Is there a list that identifies the priority of different components of the renovation and an estimated cost of completing them? How can society members understand the financial risks involved?

A: Yes, as part of the project’s development we have developed a list of the various components of the whole project and preliminary costs have been determined through the support of a general contractor with experience in performing these evaluations. We have used this evaluation to map out how much money we need to fundraise and identified where we expect to raise it from.

The project and its budget are managed on a day-to-day basis by the Executive Director who has access to professional advice and support from a professional accounting firm. They are overseen by the Finance Committee which is composed of VJLS-JH Board members and society members who have financial expertise. Society members who join the Finance Committee must go through a formal interview process to ensure they are an appropriate fit for the role.

Q29. Do we have any access to financial information for school?

A: Yes, members can request the reviewed Financial Statements that have been presented at the most recent Annual General Meeting. Access to historical financial information can be viewed on the Canada Revenue Agency’s website here.

Re-zoning

Q30. What does the recent re-zoning application cover?

A: As part of the Interpretive Centre project we are proposing adding a Mezzanine to the Hall which would add 700 sq ft of floor space. This would create storage space, a location for interactive learning videos, and specialized event space.

Q31. There was a recent session of Vancouver City Council where VJLS-JH spoke to councillors about the re-zoning. Were VJLS-JH community members informed of this and the re-zoning?

A: Information on the speaking opportunity with City Council had been shared with participants in the previous Information session and members were invited to watch and submit questions. A sign was also posted on the front door of the building. Regarding the submission of a re-zoning application, this was initiated last July, nearly a year before the Executive Director was hired and took over the management of the project.

Security 

Q32. Will there be a security officer hired to work during school open times?

A: Our experience operating a Cooling Station over the summer of 2020, in partnership with Atira, has shown that having a staff person trained in social work is the most effective way to create safety for everyone. Staff with these skills would be familiar with the local community and understand how to support individuals from vulnerable groups and having someone like this in our lobby would be beneficial.

Q33. How are you going to be address individuals’ concerns about the neighbourhood?

A: We cannot change the neighbourhood on our own which is why we are building partnerships with local non-profit organizations in the DTES as well as the City of Vancouver. We can play an important role in addressing challenges in our neighbourhood by participating in the community and contributing to solutions.

Staff Concerns

Q34. Are the teachers able to work in the new building safely and comfortably?

A: The VJLS-JH staff is the core of our organization and we can’t do what do without them. We take their safety into full consideration and have recently created an Occupational Health & Safety Committee which has the specific goal of ensuring our building is safe for teachers, students, and community members. This project will not make our building unsafe or uncomfortable for them.

Q35. Is it possible for teachers to join the committee for this project?

A: We are currently reviewing the membership of the project’s committee and are drafting a Terms of Reference that will outline who can join the committee and what their responsibilities are. Teachers would not be prevented from applying or being a member of the project.

Q36. What do the teachers think about the renovation? Have you received any feedback from them? Are teachers allowed to speak in public information sessions?

A: We have been holding staff information sessions every two weeks where we discuss the project with all of our staff. We have been listening to their feedback and discussed what changes staff would like to see. This is an ongoing discussion and we are committed to including their feedback into this plan. Our staff can speak freely in any public session.

Program 

Q37. Have you thought about expanding Japanese classes during daytime?

A: Yes, it is the Executive Director’s hope to one day see our organization running Japanese language classes and cultural programs every day. As mentioned in our slides, we would like to invest more money into our programs as a result of the new revenue streams made possible by this project and achieving our goal of Achieving Financial Sustainability. This would allow us to provide more benefits to our staff, create new programs, and improve the quality of our existing programs.

Q38. How will the renovation affect the operation of the language school? Is there an understanding, acceptance, and support for the project from the schoolteachers and staff?

A: As mentioned in Q14 and Q22, this project will be planned in a way that ensures there is minimal impact on the delivery of VJLS-JH’s programs. The majority of the proposed changes in the Hall would be undertaken during the summertime where there are no Saturday language classes. This project should little to no impact on the operation of Children’s World programs. Should there be any disruption, the Program Director and staff would be given sufficient notification to make the appropriate preparations and adjustments. Additionally, as mentioned in Q35 and Q36, we are actively seeking staff understanding, acceptance and support of the project information sessions and their direct involvement in the project.

Q39. What are your thoughts on “Japanese Education” and is it included in your three goals?

A: As mentioned in Q37, we are committed to investing in our education programs and believe this project will allow us to develop more education programs. For this community information session, we have chosen to focus on changes to the building itself and not our existing programs although they will benefit from these changes. If there is sufficient interest, we can arrange another community information session with a strong focus on programs.

Community Feedback Session #3 日本語訳