Middle school process will be slow and selective

Board of education chair Rob McFarlane says any changes will likely take place over many years

Board of education chair Rob McFarlane says while he and his fellow school trustees support the notion of a district-wide middle school model

The Langley School District believes in the middle school model, but trustees stress that if there are going to be changes or conversions, they aren’t coming anytime soon.

“Our next step is to have consultations with the three school neighbourhoods [without middle schools] — Walnut Grove Secondary, Brookswood and DW Poppy,” said Langley board of education chair Rob McFarlane.

This is an early stage of the process, and there is no predetermined outcome, he said.

While the board of education supports the middle school model, it doesn’t necessarily mean each of those school neighbourhoods will get a middle school. There are a lot of conversations, input and factors that are in play, he said.

“We will blend that feedback and make some decisions that will be put into our five-year facilities plan,” said McFarlane.

“More likely, we are talking about changes over multiple years, potentially longer than that.

“And we may find out that there are areas where this isn’t financially viable or facilities don’t match.

“It’s much easier to picture a middle school in an area with new construction,” said McFarlane, adding that Walnut Grove is seeing larger than expected increases in enrolment.

“Where there is new construction in a growing area, it makes sense and may happen sooner there than we know, depending, too, on the feedback we get from that community.”

Brookswood is likely to be the next area of Langley to develop, so that is always something to factor in, he said.

It’s a long road and the board is going out to the public first.

“We’ve worked really hard to show that we are open and believe in consultation.

“I think we have a track record that has proven that,” he said.

McFarlane points to the original conversation about closing Langley Secondary.

The school is aging and in need of seismic upgrades.

The school district held various consultations about what to do with LSS, including open table discussions and an open meeting at the school that saw hundreds attend.

“In that consultation, another idea surfaced that we hadn’t thought of, which is what you see now,” he said in reference to LSS’s refit that is going to start to take place soon.

“I’m not promising it will work out the same way with the middle school consultations, but it shows we aren’t going out there with a predetermined outcome.”

The Langley School District is currently speaking to the various PACs to let them know of the process and ask for feedback and input. It’s expected that community consultation will happen in the new year, possibly in January, he said.

Betty Gilbert Middle School in Aldergrove is the most recent example of an elementary school converting to a middle school.

When the new high school is built in Willoughby in 2019-20, R.E. Mountain Secondary will be converted to a middle school.

Yorkson Creek Middle School is the most recent newly built facility.