Langley Secondary will not be closed. The Board of Education decided on Tuesday night to press for a new high school in Willoughby, and to keep LSS open as a “right-sized” smaller school with an emphasis on trades training, special needs programs and sports academies, as well as academics.

Langley Secondary will not be closed. The Board of Education decided on Tuesday night to press for a new high school in Willoughby, and to keep LSS open as a “right-sized” smaller school with an emphasis on trades training, special needs programs and sports academies, as well as academics.

Langley Secondary will not be closed

Langley Board of Education votes to submit ‘right-sizing’ option to Province

Langley Secondary School will live to see another day.

In front of a standing-room-only audience, the Langley Board of Education voted against a motion to permanently close LSS at a special meeting held at the board office on Tuesday night. Only board Chair Rob McFarlane and Trustee Shelley Coburn voted to close Langley’s oldest school.

The board then voted to direct staff to submit a business case to the Ministry of Education in favour of option four to ‘right-size’ LSS and build a new high school on the Willoughby slope.

Long-time Trustee Alison McVeigh was vocal in her strong support of keeping LSS open.

“LSS provides excellent education opportunities. It could serve as a trade hub. The Langley Education Centre can remain, grow and thrive . . . .  This option is the least disruption for our students and this school serves a large special needs population, the Focus program and many ESL students,” said McVeigh.

Long-time Trustee Rod Ross thanked the public for having the “wisdom” to come up with option 4 to right-size LSS.

“LSS really does serve these kids. Let’s give them the building they deserve. I’m asking the board to defeat this motion [to close the school],” Ross said.

Trustee David Tod said this process of public consultation and the passion parents and students have for this school has “energized” him.

“I say yes to LSS,” said Tod. “When we re-open LSS, I want to be there when those Saints go marching in.”

(The school’s teams are known as the Saints).

Trustee Rosemary Wallace was a parent who fought against the reconfiguration of H.D. Stafford from a high school to a middle school. Her daughter had to be moved to LSS in her Grade 12 year.

“She was a leader at Stafford. Then the board of the day changed it to a middle school with no real plan in place. Let me tell you the transition sucked,” said Wallace.

But she said LSS staff have worked very hard in making the school a community and bringing in principal Dawn Tomlinson has been the blessing. Numerous parents, teachers and students have spoken of Tomlinson’s leadership and caring for the diverse needs at the school as a key element as to what makes LSS so special.

Wallace said voting for the least disruption to the lives of children at Simonds Elementary, Stafford and LSS is an opportunity for some healing over what happened in the past.

Trustee Megan Dykeman voted to not close LSS, but with some reservation, she said.

“I will vote to support LSS resizing, but I do so with concerns we won’t receive the ministry’s support for it,” said Dykeman.

McFarlane also didn’t believe the ministry would like the right-sizing option.

McFarlane ran for school board initially because of the Stafford reconfiguration debacle in 2008. On Tuesday, he voted in favour of staff’s recommendation to close the school.

“It is all about location. LSS used to serve central Langley. But now geographically Stafford serves the population and that’s why I believe the reconfiguration of Stafford and Simonds is the best option,” said McFarlane. “As well, the LSS right sizing is several million dollars more.

Coburn said supporting right-sizing LSS is the easy option, but isn’t the right one.

“In the long term, it is not the best choice,” she said.

After the vote, Ross urged the public and the board to be hopeful the ministry will come to the table with funding for both LSS and a new high school.

“The ministry asked us to come up with a business plan and that is what we’ve done,” he said. “Allow ourselves to dream big and look at this as a best day for Langley,” Ross said.

Before the vote, several delegations spoke about keeping LSS open and remembering the dire needs of the growing Willoughby area with over capacity schools.

Grade 10 student Taylor Swift said she is the voice of the 890 students at LSS.

“There is an amazing culture at LSS. Our slogan says ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’ That’s what we are doing every day.”

As a straight A student herself, involved in many facets of extracurricular activities, she points out that LSS is graduating many scholarship students, boasts some of the best sports programs, including the Baseball Academy, has a strong dance and theatre program as well as a great support team in all of the staff and teachers.

Several Willoughby PAC presidents and parents spoke before the vote about the need for a high school in Willoughby, but also the concerns about the board changing the catchment to have students on the slope bused to LSS.

“Some students in Willoughby have changed schools four times already. We don’t want to have them change schools again and be bused to LSS,” said Yorkson Middle School PAC president Lorraine Baldwin.

Nicomekl Elementary PAC president Jennifer Bradford said she has a child in Grade 4 and a son at Stafford.

“Parents at Nicomekl strongly support resizing LSS,” she said.