Four new schools planned for Willoughby

School district unveils long-term facility plans for Langley

Tear down Willoughby Elementary and Langley Secondary and build new facilities nearby; turn R.E. Mountain Secondary into a middle school and build an addition onto the overcrowded R.C. Garnett Elementary — these are just a few of the recommendations to come out of the much-anticipated Long Term Facilities Plan on Tuesday night.  The plan was unanimously approved at a special Board of Education meeting.

It was a full house, with parents from several schools, including Glenwood Elementary and Langley Secondary, wanting to know what is planned for their children’s schools.

This is the first long-term plan Langley School District has ever had, pointed out board chair Wendy Johnson.

“It has been a commitment of this board to consult with the public and we will continue to do that,” she promised.

“These are broad recommendations, a road map for the future,” said Trustee Megan Dykeman.

“The intention of the board is not to rush decisions,” said Trustee Cecilia Reekie.

“This plan looks at being ahead of the curve so we don’t repeat what happened in Willoughby,” said Dykeman.

But some of the recommendations made in the plan will become immediate requests in a five-year capital plan the board must submit to the Ministry of Education by the end of October.

That capital plan, if approved by trustees, will ask the province to fund an addition onto the already overcrowded R.C. Garnett Elementary, as well as build three new elementary schools and one new high school in Willoughby.

The plan recommends that an elementary school be built where the James Anderson Learning Centre is, and relocate the centre to a different site.

Once a new high school is open in Willoughby, the intent will be to convert the overcrowded R.E. Mountain to a middle school. Enrolment at Mountain is expected to double within five years.

Because of the Township’s plan to develop the Latimer neighbourhood (around Langley Events Centre and Mountain), three elementary schools and a high school will be needed in the area to handle the influx of people.

Projections show that there is a major increase in preschool enrolment which will translate into larger enrolment in elementary schools in the future.

Relocating Willoughby Elementary is necessary because the building is sitting at what will be the commercial hub of Willoughby at the intersection of 208 Street and 80 Avenue, said the report. That will be the major town centre with commercial development and businesses surrounding it.

Glenwood is among three aging schools that are recommended to be replaced at an alternative location.

“Is finding alternative sites for Glenwood, Langley Secondary and Willoughby Elementary code for closing these schools?” asked Trustee Rob McFarlane.

“It doesn’t mean closures. It means relocated to an adjacent or nearby site,” said consultant Hugh Skinner, who put together the plan.

“It’s a relief to see we are near the end of enrolment decline,” said trustee Rod Ross.

The plan also asks the board to look at determining whether three closed schools — Bradshaw, County Line and Murrayville — are required for programs or services or should be disposed of.

Aldergrove Secondary enrolment has declined and the school has underutilized space. Consultation with what to do with that school will get underway.

The plan also wants the board to start a discussion around middle grade education for Brookswood, D.W. Poppy and Walnut Grove area schools.

Johnson told the audience that there has been a lot of research that indicates middle schools provide students with a better learning environment.

“We need to share that research and decide is that the best way to organize education,” Johnson said.

One parent asked if there was a timeline when discussions around middle schools is going to start.

“It is in the fairly immediate future. Can’t say if it’s in January or March but we will advise you,” Johnson replied.

The board encouraged all parents to look at the plan online at the district website at  sd35.bc.ca.

They also asked people to email or call and offer comments.

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