Routley area ‘abandoned’ by new school plans

Why are we ‘not worthy?’ spokesman for area parents wonders

Pete Pretorius is among the parents living in the Routley area who is unhappy that the neighbourhood won't benefit from a recent announcement by the premier that Langley will get two new schools.

The news that the B.C. government will bankroll two new schools in Langley was nothing to celebrate as far as a group of parents in the Routley neighbourhood is concerned.

It appears neither of the new schools will be built in their area.

“It’s a bitter disappointment,” said Pete Pretorius, who speaks for the parents who’ve been fighting a controversial land swap that would mean no school in their immediate area.

“They basically abandoned Routley,” Pretorius added.

He made his comments after Premier Christy Clark announced an estimated $50 million in funding for two new Langley schools, including the purchase of land for one of them.

It was part of a $353 million package for the fastest-growing B.C. school districts.

At the Monday Clark press conference, Langley Board of Education  chairperson Stacey Cody and Superintendent Cheryle Beaumont told The Times the district has been working hard to get funding for the new schools for about five years.

Pretorius said it would have been nice if the district had devoted some of that time and effort to getting a school for Routley.

“Someone just said [to Routley] you’re not worthy,” Pretorius said.

“Did we do something wrong that we deserved to be punished?”

The land swap approved by trustees calls for the school site in the Routley neighbourhood to become a park, while adjacent parkland would become a townhouse development.

In return, the school district will get property to build a school in the Yorkson neighbourhood of Willoughby.

The district and Township should have properly informed people about the decision to shift priorities, Pretorius said, and they should have mentioned it was a done deal when parents complained about the land swap.

“They knew all of this while we were meeting,” Pretorius complained.

At a June meeting with the board of education and Township council, parents were told growth has shifted and Yorkson will need more classroom space.

At the meeting, district staff insisted the Routley parents were advised about the change of plans years ago, while the parents maintained that they were never told.

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 did not belong to a PAC at the time, because their children were not yet school-age.

Even though the Routley swap has yet to be approved by Township council, parents are getting discouraged, Pretorius said.

“People are saying, we’re getting up early, we’re staying up late, we attend meetings and all we hear is blah, blah, blah.”

The parents want the district to at least keep the land available for school construction in the future rather than remove that possibility forever.

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