Music students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University held an outdoor concert in Langley City to protest budget-tightening that eliminated new admissions. A study by a KPU math and science instructor has found KPU gets about half what other regional colleges and universities get. (Advance Times file photo)

Year In Review: Big changes at Langley high schools from Poppy to LSS

Debates over middle schools, new schools, and major renos took place

One of the biggest education stories in Langley in 2019 was what didn’t change.

In December, the Langley Board of Education voted against transforming D.W. Poppy Secondary into a middle school feeding into Aldergrove Community Secondary.

The decision followed months of consultations and strong opposition from the Poppy community, including many parents, students, and some teachers.

District staff recommended the middle school option for Poppy, as both that school and Aldergrove are below capacity.

But the change also would have created even longer bus rides or drives to school for many students, as Poppy already had the largest catchment area in Langley by far.

The dispute also caused consternation for teachers and parents at ACS. Some of the objections to sending Poppy students to Aldergrove were based on the idea that Aldergrove had “problem children” who would bully Poppy students or lure them into drinking, according to ACS principal Jeremy Lyndon.

“These are not easy things to hear,” said Lyndon, “and students and staff began to internalize it.”

Board members reported receiving a large number of “inappropriate” emails over the issue.

The district will now examine other options in 2020.

While reconfiguration was nixed at Poppy, two other Langley secondary schools saw major changes that passed without much controversy.

R.E. Mountain Secondary got a whole new building, as in September the brand-new campus opened adjacent to the old high school in Willoughby. The old high school becomes the neighbourhood’s second middle school, now dubbed Peter Ewart Middle.

The new high school was built to accommodate 1,700 students, a significant upgrade from the old campus, which had 21 portables before the changeover.

Meanwhile, Langley Secondary, the district’s oldest high school, turned 110 and marked the occasion with both a party and a major renovation and demolition at the current decades-old campus.

At the start of 2019, LSS students were using classrooms build in 1949. By the end of the year, they were mostly moved into classrooms built in the last year.

The massive changes included more flexible spaces and a chance to upgrade technology, with everything from USB plug ins to LED lighting.

Some classic maple wood from the old cafeteria was to be salvaged and used to build benches for the new section of the school, principal Marcello Moino said.

Demolition for much of the older portion of the school began in July and continued into the fall, with students using parts of both phases at times, but with the switch well underway by September of 2019.

At the post-secondary level, students at Langley’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) campus battled deep cuts to the school’s music programs.

The school said it was canceling new student intakes while it explored “more sustainable” models for funding the music program.

Students staged a musical protest in Langley, but many also began transferring to other schools to finish their musical education.

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