The Fraser Institute says demand for spaces in independent schools in the Lower Mainland is rising faster than they can expand and vacant public schools should be opened up to meet the growing demand.
According to a new study released by the right-wing think tank on Tuesday, 57 per cent of about 150 independent schools in the region had waiting lists, and nearly 2,200 children were waiting for spots in the schools last year.
Study author Jason Clemens says several factors are slowing the expansion of independent schools, including the cost of land in Metro Vancouver, fundraising and zoning laws.
One solution would be to rent out vacant public schools to independent schools to help them expand, says Clemens.
"It doesn't make sense for anybody to have public schools idle that are costing the public system money, when there are independent schools who want to expand and could rent or lease those schools at least for some defined period," he said.
Since overall enrolment peaked in 1997-98, the number of students enrolled in all B.C. schools has declined 8.4 per cent, and public school enrolment has declined by 11.3 per cent, according to the study.
However during that same period, enrolment at independent schools increased by 22.4 per cent, the study found. More than 11.5 per cent of students across the province now attend independent schools, it said.
The findings come as the B.C. government attempts to sign a long term contract with B.C.'s 41,000 teachers following last year's job action.