Education minister invited to take a walk

Children as young as five may have to walk 3.5 kilometres twice a day as a result of the Langley school district decision to swap a proposed school site in the Routley neighbourhood of Willoughby for another location in the Yorkson neighbourhood.

The prediction was made Tuesday by Pete Pretorius, spokesperson for a group of parents campaigning to keep the Routley site.

A few hours before parents representatives were to meet with the board of education and Township council to discuss the issue, the parents issued a public challenge to provincial Education Minister George Abbott, to walk the route many students will be forced to take.

Pretorius said for some Routley parents, driving their children is not a practical option, nor is hiring a school bus that can cost as much as $300 a month.

That means some will be forced to make a three and one-half kilometre trip on foot across 200 Street to attend primary school, Pretorius said.

He said building a school on the designated site in the rapidly-growing Routley neighbourhood is a “logical next step” that should proceed.

Pretorius said parents were unsure they will get to make their case at the Tuesday night meeting with the Township and board of education, because they’ve been told the meeting was to explain the decision-making process that produced the land swap.

“That’s not going to leave a lot of time for us,” Pretorius said.

Langley school district staff have defended the land swap as an appropriate response to shifting growth patterns in the Willoughby area.

Superintendent Cheryle Beaumont has said the provincial government decides when to build new schools and the district can’t hope that one “will appear from the sky” just because it owns a lot.

The Township is involved because the land swap agreement between the school district and the developer who owns the Yorkson property must get rezoning approval before it can proceed.

And a Township of Langley “Routley Park conceptual plan” shows the site was originally designated for construction of an elementary school, once the area was fully developed.

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