Last chance for input on Langley school realignment

Public input sought at Wednesday, Jan. 14 meeting. Board will be making decisions on Jan. 27.

The possible closure of Langley Secondary, turning H.D. Stafford Middle School back into a Grade 9-12 school and finding funds to build a high school in Willoughby are all possibilities on the table, and will be discussed by the Board of Education on Jan. 27.

But before that, the Langley School District is holding one last information session for the public on Wednesday, Jan. 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the school board office.

This informal meeting will provide community members with information and be an opportunity to ask questions.  Information will be provided through one-on-one, small group conversations, similar to previous community consultation meetings that took place on Dec. 2 and 3.

At the Jan. 27 board meeting, staff will recommend a business case for the future of Langley schools, based on public input and staff expertise.

Trustees will ultimately have to decide then on what changes could occur, including closing Langley Secondary.

After two days of community consultation and online input, district staff took all that public input to figure out what are the best options for the future of Langley schools.

The Ministry of Education hasn’t promised any money for a new high school in Willoughby but has indicated that the district needs to be ready with a business plan should money become available.

The urgency of making decisions now is because something has to be done with Langley Secondary — the district’s oldest school which is in dire need of seismic upgrades.

But the upgrades, estimated at $20 million, paid by the provincial government, would only cover earthquake safety, not aging infrastructure and equipment in the building. Overall, work needed on LSS would cost close to $38 million. A brand new high school costs around $45 million.

“How much should we spend on an aging school when growth of the City has leveled off and the location isn’t in any neighbourhood,” said Gord Stewart, Langley School District assistant superintendent.

Suggestions are to close it, keep a small portion of the trades area open, or turn it into a smaller school.

H.D. Stafford Middle School could be turned back into a Grade 9 to 12 school. Currently, Stafford enrolment is flat.

Meanwhile, Mountain Secondary in Willoughby is bursting at the seams, with 16 portables. Stewart suggested that expansion there is possible but the more favoured solution is to build a high school nearby and turn Mountain into a middle school.

But a quicker and cheaper concept is to expand Mountain and build another middle school in Willoughby.

The James Anderson school site, which currently sits empty in Willoughby, is being carefully considered for its future use, said superintendent Suzanne Hoffman.

“The district has no immediate plans. It’s a site we are exploring for future education use,” said Hoffman at the Stafford consultation meeting. Residents who attended the sessions indicated there was no appetite for busing their children to far away schools like D.W. Poppy, currently under capacity.

Another prime property for developers is the Willoughby Elementary site. The district hasn’t indicated whether either could be put up for sale consideration. But the district also has to review selling closed school sites like Bradshaw, County Line and Murrayville schools.

All the suggestions were put out there for input, like closing LSS and transferring all students and staff to Stafford or an expanded Brookswood Secondary.

At Stafford, several parents with children at James Hill Elementary (a feeder school) were there to find out where their kids will be going.

Another parent wanted to know why Langley became a middle school district, changing many elementary schools to K-5.

One of the suggestions is to expand Simonds Elementary into a Grade 6-8 middle school, creating a second storey and making a new gym. Currently, the population at the school is only around 120.

People can still provide input by emailing feedback@sd35.bc.ca.

There were several suggestions to turn Blacklock into the middle school or build a smaller high school on the LSS site.

Hoffman stressed that no decision has been made beforehand, nor is there a timeline known yet.

“There is lots of emotion and I get that.  No matter what we do it’s going to take a few years to accomplish,” said Stewart.

At the last board of education meeting of the year, trustees asked staff to look at the options presented by the public and report back on their feasibility.

Hoffman said many of those suggestions are already being considered but a report will come back.

At the meeting, secretary-treasurer David Green said the urgency to make a business plan by January is because the government creates its budget for the upcoming fiscal year,  and has requested something be ready for it, if there is money available.

“But we we do in terms of a decision will impact the whole of the district. We must be mindful of that,” said Green.

The meeting on Jan. 14 will be held at the School Board Office, 4875 222 St. People can still provide input by emailing feedback@sd35.bc.ca.

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