Some good news for Willoughby

The provincial government is clearly listening to fast-growing communities like Surrey and Langley, as it has made $353 million available for construction of new schools and more classrooms at existing schools.

It is long overdue. Few saw an infusion of cash of this magnitude coming.

Both Langley MLAs are members of Premier Christy Clark’s cabinet, and undoubtedly were in on the decision to commit to this spending. In addition, both have been making the case for Langley students for some time, particularly in the fast-growing Willoughby area, where the number of students far outstrips the available classroom space.

Given that Willoughby is far from being fully developed, the two new schools in the area will just fill part of the eventual needs. The province is ready to fund a new elementary school and a new middle school, at a cost of about $50 million.

The middle school will allow Willoughby students to experience a different approach to education, as is now the case in Langley City, a portion of Brookswood and Aldergrove. But it does more than offer a different educational approach.

It also frees up classroom space at existing elementary and secondary schools. Given that R.C. Garnett, Langley Meadows and Willoughby Elementaries are all full, it is to their benefit if Grade 6 and 7 students are able to attend middle school.

That frees up space in each of those schools for Kindergarten to Grade 5 students, which is even more important now that Kindergarten is full-time. Where one classroom used to suffice, two are now necessary.

The new Lynn Fripps school, now under construction, will also become a K-5 school at that point. The middle school won’t be open for several years, so the impact is not immediate, but it will eventually come.

R.E. Mountain Secondary, which is also full, will have some additonal space made available as well. It will eventually house Grades 9 to 12, with Grade 8 students at the middle school.

Those who express concern about the expense of the Langley Events Centre also need to keep in mind that it fills a critical role for Mountain, as it is in effect the school’s major gym facility. This also frees up space at Mountain.

The school district’s investment in the Events Centre was a good move, not just for Willoughby students, but for students from all over the district who take part in athletic events there.

I am still concerned that students who live west of 200 Street will not have an elementary school in their area. While some are able to attend Langley Meadows school, a significant number are supposed to cross that busy street to attend other elementaries.

The school district had obtained a site on 70 Avenue in the Routley neighborhood, which is now supposed to become a park, under a complex land swap that frees up space for an elementary in the Yorkson neighbourhood, west of 208 Street.

Eventually, there will be a lot of students west of 200 Street. Another elementary school will be needed in that area.

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