Richard Bulpitt Elementary school in Willoughby is one of several schools feeling the effects of the neighbourhood’s rapidly expanding population.

New catchments approved for crowded Willoughby neighbourhood

Boundary changes will take effect at beginning of 2017-18 school year

School catchment changes are coming to the Willoughby slope as part of an effort to address overcrowding in Langley’s fastest-growing neighbourhood.

The Board of Education approved the catchment changes for Willoughby elementary schools at its last meeting of the year, Tuesday evening.

The new boundaries won’t take effect until the 2017-2018 school year.

The hope is that it will mitigate overcrowding during a time when Willoughby is seeing increases in enrollment, year after year.

It was last year that the board asked staff to redraw the catchments to address enrollment pressures.

Former superintendent of schools Suzanne Hoffman made the presentation to the board on Tuesday.

Hoffman, who has been hired by the Ministry of Education to work on the new B.C. curriculum, headed public consultation and redrawing of catchment areas.

The public was consulted throughout the process, with changes made to address their concerns.

During the process, parents expressed concern that siblings may not be able to stay together at Richard Bulpitt Elementary, Langley’s fastest growing school.

On Tuesday, Hoffman said siblings will be grandfathered and family members will be able to remain at the same school.

In order to accommodate this, four new portables will be added to Richard Bulpitt.

There was also concern that the neighbourhood centre in that school, which houses a daycare and before- and after-school care, would have to be closed to make way for more classroom space. Hoffman said the neighbourhood centre will remain in place.

Early in the process, the district considered using the currently empty James Anderson school site as an overflow for R.C. Garnett students. The idea was not well received by parents.

“We won’t use James Anderson.

With families staying together at Bulpitt we hopefully will mitigate R.C. Garnett’s overcrowding,” said Hoffman.

“With R.C. Garnett, we are doing the best we can.”

Prior to Hoffman’s presentation, members of the R.C. Garnett PAC pleaded with trustees to help with the stress that overcrowding has placed on that school. They were asking that students be allowed to use the playground equipment offered at the Township park next door.

“Currently, K-2 students are only allowed to use the playground three times a week and Grades 2 to 5 only get to use the playground twice a week,” said PAC VP Julia Ng.

“We’ve been told we can’t bring in more playground equipment because there is no room.”

She noted that there are 200 more students attending that school than the facility was built to accommodate, with many portables on site.

Reworking the catchment changes has taken more than a year, and has included meetings with PACs, school staff, public consultations and reviewing feedback — even driving the roads where the boundaries are, said Hoffman.

While parents expressed deep concern with the overcrowding of Willoughby schools, there wasn’t any opposition to the catchment changes, she said.

“The consultation process has come a long way since you arrived here, Suzanne,” said board chair Rob McFarlane.

Trustee Rod Ross was pleased with the work done, remarking that he didn’t hear from any parents about the new boundaries. But Hoffman cautioned that not all is rosy in Willoughby.

“Parents are very concerned about overcrowding — that was made clear,” she said.

Willoughby is only half built-out, with many more students and early learners expected to move into the area in the coming years. Mountain Secondary is bursting with 16 portables, and more needed.

The district’s number one priority is to have a high school built on the Willoughby slope.

Another priority of the district in its long-term facility plan is to expand R.C. Garnett.

The new catchments can be viewed online at  www.sd35.bc.ca. Click on the events calendar and select “consultations.”