Langley School District is beginning a consultation process that will affect the Langley Secondary and R.E. Mountain catchment communities.
After several meetings with DPAC, impacted school staff and the board of education, the district is ready to hold information sessions with parents. On Tuesday, Dec. 2 at H.D. Stafford Middle School there will be an information session at 3:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, Dec. 3 at R.E. Mountain Secondary there will be a session at 3:30 and again at 6:30 p.m. The info sessions will provide the community with an overview of some of the suggestions and implications of addressing Willoughby slope overcrowding, under-capacity schools and Langley Secondary’s required seismic upgrades and whether or not to close that school.
The suggestions from the district staff are varied, and include everything from expanding Simonds Elementary into a middle school and closing Langley Secondary, to changing H.D. Stafford Middle School back into a Grade 9-12 school.
“From the meetings we have had with the respective PACs, we have learned that transparency about everything is vital and that the community’s input must be part of the process,” said district spokesperson Ken Hoff.
He stressed that the suggestions the district will be presenting are only suggestions, not finalized or decided on already.
They are being put out there to find out from the community what parts are liked, what the district may have missed or could add and take away.
“Ultimately, though, it is the board who will decide which options are best to move forward with to make a business plan that will be ready for the Ministry of Education,” Hoff said.
The board will be given the preferred options to decide on sometime in January.
The reason it is so important to have a business plan in place is the ministry could ask for one at any time, as part of offering funds for a secondary school in Willoughby.
“We have no promises from the ministry that any funding is going to come our way, but they did say have a plan ready, so we must be ready,” said Hoff.
A high school takes up to 48 months to build, so getting things going sooner rather than later is preferable, he said.
Options to alleviate overcrowding in Willoughby include building a high school and converting Mountain into a middle school or building a new middle school and expanding Mountain.
Under those two possibilities, for the short term to ease pressures at Yorkson Middle School, elementaries in Willoughby could all be converted to K-6 and/or creating ‘a Grade 6 school’ and run REMSS at 8-12.
The option to bus students to any school under capacity in the district is still on the table as a possibility, but one the district isn’t keen on.
“This option doesn’t fit with our goal which is the emotional well being of all students in Langley,” Hoff said.
The possibilities on the table are dramatic for schools in the City.
“What is definite is LSS requires a seismic upgrade, which is estimated to cost around $20 million from the province. But this will not address any concerns about the aging school, like the boiler that needs replacing,” he said.
For all the upgrades needed at Langley’s oldest school (which opened in 1949), the district estimates it would be around $18 million.
“For $38 million, we are more than half way to the price of a new school,” he said.
Demolishing LSS and putting in a new high school on that location may not be the best idea, but it is one on the table.
“LSS is not in a community that is anywhere near homes or a neighbourhood. It is near an airport, so its location isn’t ideal,” said Hoff.
If LSS was closed, the entire school population, and potentially all staff, could be moved to Stafford, which would be upgraded and built onto to create a high school capable of handling 1,600 students.
Another answer may be to keep part of LSS open to create a trades-only school and bring the remainder of students to an upgraded, enlarged Brookswood Secondary, that would be capable of handling 1,800 students — the same population as Walnut Grove is now.
Simonds Elementary is being looked at for possible conversion to a middle school, with add-ons, including a second floor to accommodate 600 students. Students from that school could potentially be moved to Uplands and then go to Simonds.
These options have implications for StrongStarts and neighbourhood learning centres.
There’s a lot of possibilities on the table and the district is counting on the public to come out to these meetings to help formulate a plan to ‘move forward.’
But any major changes require funding from the provincial government.
“That’s why we can’t provide a timeline on when plans would go forward.
“This is not a decision. It’s a direction,” said Hoff.