Empty and boarded up

Board of education votes to sell off unused school sites

Sale of up to five properties will help to fund district's share of a new Willoughby high school

Langley board of education has voted to sell off four schools — and potentially a fifth — to bring itself closer to building a new high school in the ever-expanding Willoughby area.

At its April 26 meeting, the board unanimously approved offering Bradshaw Elementary, County Line Elementary, Murrayville Elementary for sale, along with a vacant parcel of land on 32 Avenue.

Trustees will vote at the May meeting whether to also put the former Lochiel school up for sale.

The properties will likely be on the market by June.

“We have put out an expression of interest already to hire a realty firm to tell us how to market the properties and how much they are worth,” said David Green, Langley School District secretary-treasurer. The properties are currently zoned institutional, but there is potential for developers to seek rezoning to allow for residential construction.

The schools were closed over the years when populations shifted away from rural farming areas. Most likely the easiest to sell will be the Murrayville Elementary site, which sits on prime real estate along 48 Avenue.

Green said the estimated cost to build a high school in Willoughby is $50 million.

Last year, the Ministry of Education changed its policy and asked that each school district fund up to 50 per cent of any new school.

Last week, the  ministry responded promptly to a ‘project definition report’ the Langley School District sent regarding the proposed high school.

“The fact that we received a response so quickly is encouraging,” said Green in a later interview.

Trustee Megan Dykeman also said the quick response is a good sign.

“The letter also said they would be contacting us in the near future,” said Dykeman.

The number 1 priority of the district is to build a new high school to reduce overcrowding pressure at all the schools in the area.

Mountain Secondary already has 16 portables and is expected to need two or three more by the 2017/18 year. Yorkson Middle school has portables and is currently requiring all parents of students entering Grade 6 to bring proof of address by mid-May to help address overcrowding there.

Richard Bulpitt Elementary will face catchment changes to handle being over-capacity. It is predicted to be the most popular K-5 in Langley.

On Tuesday, the board also gave official notice that it intends to sell the Lochiel school site as well. That vote is expected to take place at the May meeting.

Green said he couldn’t guess how much the properties would sell for and said that determination will be up to the realty firm.

Given the complexity of marketing the four properties and the time involved, district staff has decided to take advantage of the services offered through the government’s “RAEG” (Release of Assets for Economic Generation) program.

The chosen realty firm will provide marketing plans, recommended list prices, selling strategies, probable selling prices and commission information.