No school for Routley, parents told
Parents fighting to keep a school site in Langley Township’s Routley neighbourhood have been told the provincial education ministry will not approve construction of a new school in that area.
The message was delivered by school superintendent Cheryle Beaumont during a brief Tuesday night meeting of parents with the Langley Board of Education and Township of Langley council at the district offices.
“Under no circumstances would the ministry approve a school in that area,” Beaumont said.
According to provincial education ministry standards, Beaumont said Routley would not qualify for a school of its own because it has a smaller number of school-age children than other neighborhoods and is considered close enough to existing schools.
“This is well within the guidelines for a reasonable distance,” Beaumont said.
The parents oppose a proposed land swap that would see the Routley site traded for land in Yorkson.
Under the terms of the deal, the school district would get another school site in Yorkson and the Routley site will become a townhouse project with a public park attached.
At the one-hour meeting parents were told growth has shifted and Yorkson will need more classroom space, even though it already has a new school under construction.
Township Mayor Rick Green said even if council does what some parents have suggested and refuses to approve the re-zoning required for the swap, the site will remain in the hands of the school board.
“They could potentially sell that site,” Green said.
It is also not clear whether council could legally withhold approval at this point in the process.
At the meeting, district staff continued to insist parents were advised about the change of plans years ago while the parents maintained that they were never told.
It appears the district did tell some parents about the decision, but they were members of a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) for residents who already had children in school.
Most of the Routley parents say they did not get the news because they did not belong to a PAC at the time.
Their children were not yet school-age.
They say they bought homes in Routley because they expected the school would be ready by the time their children were were old enough to attend.
Parents spokesperson Pete Pretorius said it amounts to a “bait and switch,” because official Township and school district plans called for construction of a school once the neighborhood was fully developed.
Pretorius said changing the plan to convert the site into a townhouse project was an “atrocity” and he promised the parents will continue to lobby the Township and local MLAs to at least keep the land available for school construction in the future rather than remove that possibility forever.
“If you build town homes now, it’s done, it’s over”, Pretorius said.
School board chair Wendy Johnson opened the meeting by advising the audience it was an information session only.
“There will be no resolutions that come out of this meeting, “ Johnson said.
After presentations by district staff and the parents, there were about 15 minutes left for questions.
On Tuesday, June 7, some Routley parents plan to stage an early morning walk with their children to the nearest school, which is located just over three kilometres and two busy road crossings away.
It will start at 7 a.m. at 198 St. and 72 Avenue.
The parents have issued an invitation to “walk in our children’s shoes” to provincial premier Christy Clark, education minister George Abbott, the board of education and Township council.
Photos: Parents spokesperson Pete Pretorius, Langley school superintendent Cheryle Beaumont.
Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times