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Board of Education wants input on new schools

Parents didn’t get a say on where the new middle and elementary schools in Willoughby are going to be located, but the Board of Education is asking for public input on where future schools should go.

And there will be a lot of schools to decide on, predicts Langley Board of Education chair Wendy Johnson.

At a town hall meeting held last Saturday, she told the audience that the district met with the Ministry of Education recently and the province thinks Langley will need up to 10 new elementary schools, four middle schools and a new high school over the next 15 years — most of them in the Willoughby area.

Langley, especially the Willoughby area, is one of the fastest growing areas of B.C. Willoughby is growing on par with Surrey, which is set to become the largest city in B.C.

Willoughby alone will need many schools, she said. But currently the new middle school is being built in what parents consider is south Walnut Grove (just south of the freeway, on 84 Avenue) and the new Lynn Fripps Elementary School is in Yorkson, where growth is predicted for many years. A large apartment complex is currently under construction on 208 Street at 83 Avenue.

With all this growth and need for new facilities, the board is seeking feedback on its Long Term Facilities Plan which will look at which programs are appropriate for which schools, as well as enrolment, capacity and  “maintain appropriate sized facilities that will accommodate changing enrolment and education programs over the next 10 to 15 years.”

At the Feb. 21, board meeting, trustees approved the vision statement and guiding principles for the plan. Public feedback is encouraged as the guiding principles will shape the planning process going forward.

Johnson said the facilities plan is something most districts already have.

“We couldn’t continue to where people are in the dark,” said Johnson, in an interview last month.

“In this plan, we will be looking at the Willoughby slope and what to do there. We have to consider consolidation of some schools,” she said. “We have a number of things planned including a liaison committee with the Township to talk about growth areas. We have a good board and I look forward to the future.”

Meanwhile, parents at R.C. Garnett Elementary are still upset from the recent announcement that their school is being turned into a K-5, effective next September.

Grade 6s and 7s from that school will be bused to the new Lynn Fripps school, starting in Serptember. Parents  question why there wasn’t any public discourse about that decision, and why it wasn’t voted on at the board level.

R.C. Garnett is bursting at the seams, with a predicted 633 students by September 2012. It was built to accommodate 350. Currently, no new elementary school is planned for that area.

The province has announced funding for a new elementary school in Willoughby, but its location has yet to be finally determined.

Feedback about the plan can be forwarded via facilitiesplanfeedback@sd35.bc.ca. There will also be public consultations this spring, Johnson said.

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