This September, a whole lot of students are going to return to classrooms in Langley, and find out that they will be in a portable.
About 15 years ago, Langley School District was looking at possibly shrinking. Enrolments were static or declining. Several rural schools, along with Aldergrove Elementary, were closed in the span of a few years, wrenching decisions for both parents and trustees.
Then the Willoughby boom really got underway. And kept going, and going, and going, and reached a fever pitch in the last two years.
In the 2021/22 school year, the district projected that they would see an increase of 237 more students. That was considered a conservative estimate and it turned out to be far, far too conservative.
Enrolment last September was up by 927 students, more than triple expectations.
The students didn’t stop coming, either. By April the number of total new enrolments had surpassed 1,000.
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The province really needs to step in at this point and help Langley. It’s Victoria that holds the purse strings, after all.
For decades, school construction only happened when and if there were enough students to fill a new school. After all, you don’t want to spent tens of millions on a new school only to find that a development boom petered out suddenly.
But even if not a single new family moves to Langley this summer – not likely – the district is now in need of an extra elementary school or two, plus more room in middle and secondary schools.
The province needs to come up with a plan to provide more space. Portables are the obvious choice, although they aren’t ideal, but other plans – more outdoor education, leased space, staggered classes for some grades – may have to be explored.
Because if we add another 1,000 students this year, portables alone won’t cut it.