Langley School District’s Woody Bradford and Joanne Abshire kicked off a period where residents within the East Langley catchment area are gathering to share their thoughts regarding the district’s plan to add more middle schools.
The first meeting, held at Betty Gilbert Middle School last Wednesday, drew in roughly 30 parents and principals from Shortreed Elementary School and Betty Gilbert Middle School.
Bradford – the district’s assistant superintendent – will lead five subsequent meetings all with a similar format, including an exposition of three options presented to address the needs of the D.W. Poppy catchment.
The school board decided in 2017 for the district to move to the middle school model.
It was then that a transition committee was created to consult on how best to execute such.
This spring the committee was expanded to include Aldergrove Community Secondary School (ACSS) principals, teachers, and Parent Advisory Council (PAC) members due to the challenges both ACSS and D.W. Poppy share.
Bradford – a graduate of D.W. Poppy himself – said he has a strong “personal connection” to the matter, noting that his children are all products of middle school education.
Bradford said the input meetings seek to explore the question “how can we provide equal opportunities for [secondary] students across [the] district?”
The first option presented – to re-submit the request for $4.5-million in capital funding to change D.W. Poppy into both a middle and high school – has already been denied two times by the Ministry of Education, Bradford admitted.
Enrolment at both high schools has dropped significantly within the past decade.
ACSS, which can hold roughly 1,100 students, has only around 500 enrolled this year. And D.W. Poppy which currently has around 730 enrolled, has a capacity for 1,125 or so students.
Smaller enrolment at both high schools has impacted programming that is able to be offered to students, Bradford said.
More than 100 students that live in Aldergrove currently commute to attend D.W. Poppy, which Bradford says is students “already telling us” they want a larger school with more programming to choose from.
Option two is to place portables at D.W. Poppy to make room for at least another middle-school grade.
Option three would be to turn D.W. Poppy into a stand-alone middle school and ACSS into its feeder secondary school.
Abshire, the district’s communications manager, said that the committee will also be reaching out to high school students to get their thoughts on the matter.
Transportation was a big issue on the minds of parents at the meeting.
Parents from D.W. Poppy asked how children who take part in after school clubs or activities will get back home if a bus is only offered twice during the day, as outlined by Bradford in option one.
He assured parents that a bus route implemented for option three would have kids picked up from near their homes and dropped off at ACSS within 40 minutes.
However, specific routes have not been confirmed, Bradford added.
Parents were asked to place post-it notes what they thought most valid for the school district to provide for Aldergrove students – the majority of votes went to educational opportunities and extracurricular activities.
Bradford and Abshire are going one step further to ask Aldergrove parents to submit their input directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, a survey online at the district website (sd35.bc.ca), or during an upcoming input meeting.
The next public meeting will be held on Oct. 3, from 6 to 8 p.m. at ACSS, and will include parents from both Aldergrove secondary school and Shortreed Elementary School, as well as the general public.
A month after the last meeting on Nov. 7, district staff will use the public’s input to come up with a final recommendation that will be sent to the school board before a final decision is made.