School district eyes three new elementary schools for growing Willoughby

New class size language has added to pressure of getting new schools

The Supreme Court ruling that restored language around classroom size and composition has not only led to a teacher hiring frenzy, it’s also changed how Langley School District looks at building capacity in new schools.

At the last board of education meeting, secretary-treasurer Brian Iseli said the $55 million high school being built in Willoughby has a capacity of 1,500 students. But they have now added an option for eight additional classrooms if need be.

“We have designed the school with a shell space for us to add eight classrooms. The shell space costs an additional $640,000,” said Iseli.

Also the right-sizing at Langley Secondary needs to be re-assessed, given the restorative language that requires smaller class sizes, which creates the need for more classrooms.

Recently, Langley district leadership team members toured Ministry of Education staff around the Willoughby slope to explain the needs of one of B.C.’s fastest-growing neighbourhoods.

Following that tour, the Ministry said the district should acquire three — not two — sites for elementary schools in Willoughby and set those purchases as a priority in the five-year capital plan.

Trustees were shown the district’s new five-year capital plan, with the first priority being to acquire a five-acre site in southwest Yorkson by 2018-19 for an estimated cost of $8.5 million.

Another five-acre parcel is required in northeast Latimer and southwest Latimer in that same timeline, at a cost of $9 million apiece.

In 2019-20, an elementary school will open in southwest Yorkson, with a capacity of 430 students, with potential for 80 more students at a cost of $15 million.

DW Poppy is adding a modular building next school year for students to transition into a middle school.

Trustee Rod Ross lamented the high costs of acquiring land.

“It’s now $2 million for one acre of land in Willoughby,” he said. Ross then asked staff to “give us a perspective on the new government,” and how it is looking at funding for new schools.

“The capital branch of the ministry of education has had a total turnover of staff,” explained Iseli.

“They have changed the whole way they fund schools. They are far more collaborative with us. After we showed them Willoughby, they saw the need for schools there and that’s why they pushed for us to acquire those sites.”

Also in the five-year plan, which must be submitted to the ministry, is the purchase of land for a middle school in Walnut Grove for 2020-21.

In 2022-23, there are plans to add a modular building to West Langley Elementary to convert it to a middle school.

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