Parents to speak to board over sale of school site

Parents who live in the Routley area of Willoughby will speak to Langley Board of Education tonight about the sale of a school site in their neighbourhood. A survey indicates there are 500 school-age children in the area.

Pete Pretorius says a survey of the neighbourhood around an about-to-be cancelled school site at 19865 70 Ave. in the Routley neighbourhood of Willoughby shows there are 500 children of school age living nearby.

Pretorius, the parent of two school-aged boys, was scheduled to present the survey results at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

He is one of several Routley residents expected to appear before the Langley Board of Education about a land swap that would see the property turned into a townhouse development.

Last month, the school district announced that it, the Township of Langley and a private developer have negotiated the trade of the Routley land for another location in the Yorkson neighbourhood at 20626 84 Ave.

Pretorius says he decided to buy a house in Routley because he was led to believe a school was in the works.

He pointed to a Township of Langley “Routley Park conceptual plan” in 2003 that called for construction of an elementary school with a “community facility” attached, once the area was fully developed.

A map of the proposal showed a basketball court immediately to the south, a play area to the northwest and to the east,  tennis courts and a space that could be used for two soccer pitches or two baseball fields.

“There’s a good reason people bought in that neighbourhood,” Pretorius said.

He estimates the area around the site is 85 per cent developed.

“Everybody’s bought their homes according to the plan. Now, when we have 15 per cent of the plan to go, the plan changes.”

Pretorius said the new school site is located in an area that is already getting a new school. It is just 600 metres from the new Lynn Fripps elementary, on which construction is beginning.

A statement issued by the Langley school district after the controversy erupted said it is not at all unusual for districts to “dispose of or exchange property held for future, possible school use as requirements change.”

The Yorkson neighbourhood, where the new property is located has been identified as an area of high growth and high need for future schools, the district added.

A Township of Langley report on the proposal conceded there is a lack of space for new students near Routley, but said that will be “somewhat alleviated” when the Lynn Fripps school opens in 2012.

The report notes that the Routley neighbourhood currently falls within the catchment area of Willoughby Elementary School at 208 Street and 80 Avenue which has “limited capacity available” and the problem will only get worse this fall when all-day kindergarten starts.

Pretorius and his wife set up a website to organize opposition to the proposed re-zoning at http://rz100361.com.

The name is the Township file number of the rezoning application.