Langley School District assistant superintendent Woody Bradford and communications manager Joanne Abshire facilitated table talks among Aldergrove parents on Oct. 3. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

Aldergrove parents at odds over potential middle school at D.W. Poppy

Aldergrove Community Secondary School (ACSS) held Langley School District’s third community consultation on Thursday, which contemplated options for creating a middle school in the D.W. Poppy Secondary area.

District assistant superintendent Woody Bradford and communications manager Joanne Abshire facilitated table talks among Aldergrove parents.

The district offers three options for parents to have their opinions heard: directly through email at feedback@sd35.bc.ca, an online survey at sd35.bc.ca, or at another community meeting.

“Eighty per cent of what we’re hearing online is from D.W. Poppy parents,” Abshire admitted.

“We are encouraging all of you to have your voice heard,” she said to parents in the room.

Bradford stressed the importance of “equal representation among both communities,” as impacts of the possible plans will likely have ripple effects, he told the Aldergrove Star.

Several Aldergrove teachers, including ACSS vice-principal Carla Clapton, speculated an outcome of option three – where D.W. Poppy becomes a standalone middle school – will be that Betty Gilbert Middle School is converted back into an elementary school.

Shorteed Elementary School’s PAC meeting minutes from June also mentioned the change-back.

If such occurs, Aldergrove students who finish Grade 5 would bus to the D.W. Poppy’s middle school, another teacher theorized.

Bradford said that such a change would require further community consultation in Aldergrove, and is not a part of the current middle school plan options. 

RELATED: Middle school consultations begin Sept. 18 for Langley’s eastern schools

Betty Gilbert, located two fields behind ACSS, was transformed from an elementary school to a middle school nearly ten years ago. 

ACSS principal Jeremy Lyndon said that having Grades 6 to Grade 12 “all on one campus” sharing art and explorations teachers, presents unique opportunities and challenges.

“They’re making a walk over here every other day to do their explorations,” which can be pain-staking in harsh weather conditions, Lyndon noted.

Grade 6, 7 and 8 students trek across the fields even in three-feet of snow to utilize the school’s wood shop and other facilities.

The five or ten-minute walk, over a span of three years, takes away significant instructional time that other middle schools in the district are using to learn, Lyndon said.

A decrease in high school students has stalled programming that both D.W. Poppy and ACSS are able to offer its students, Bradford said.

Two years ago, ACSS’ french immersion program was pulled due to a lack of enrolment, Lyndon admitted. And sports teams offered fluctuate yearly depending on the amount of student interest.

“One is girls rugby that has been trying to get going for awhile,” Lyndon said.

“We’ve got a crew that is quite enthusiastic about it, and we’ve got a coach sitting there – we just need numbers.”

People think the middle school at D.W. Poppy is a done deal, Bradford said, revisiting the school district’s past proposals.

“LSS was supposed to be no longer – we went through a consultation and H.D. Stafford became the middle school, and LSS became the secondary school,” Bradford explained.

“We do consultations because out of consultations come other ideas,” he added.

RELATED: Input sought from Aldergrove parents on a future middle school

Aldergrove parents and stakeholders shared mixed opinions on the possibility of D.W. Poppy becoming a middle school, and ACSS its feeder secondary (read more on the Aldergrove Star Facebook page).

Pam Alzona, whose children attend ACSS and Betty Gilbert, is in support of the option three change.

“Let’s do this sooner than later and start changing the stigma that people have against Aldergrove,” Alzona said.

“Both areas are having issues with low enrolment and the way we are currently being funded is not sustainable to keep both schools as they are being run now.”

Melissa Parkes said the change, though uncomfortable, will be positive in the long term.

“Betty Gilbert is not able to accommodate all the children within the school for electives and should have never been selected as a middle school. My children spend most of their day at high school and this is long overdue,” Parkes commented.

Misty Shufflebotham, an Aldergrove parent of a student who commutes to D.W. Poppy, worries that the proposed change “doesn’t seem to account for future growth at both schools.”

“Aldergrove is growing contrary to the school board’s projections. If the school board doesn’t believe there is growth in the local community all they have to do is take a look at all the new construction that is and will be happening,” Shufflebotham added.

READ MORE: D.W. Poppy middle school plans raise parent concerns

Michelle Diachuk said if the change goes through she will have kids in three different Langley schools, and it will be difficult to provide transportation for each.

“They are offering busing for extracurricular activities for one year. I think a long-term solution needs to be provided for a long-term problem. They talk about giving kids more opportunities but if they can’t get to-and-from those activities then I much prefer leaving things as they are,” Diachuk said.

“They are all so far apart there is no way I can manage after school activities for all of them,” she added.

With three community consultations left for parents to attend and share their perspectives, the next will be held at D.W. Poppy on Oct. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m.

A month after the last meeting, which has been moved to Oct. 30, district staff will use the public’s input to decide upon a recommendation to send to the school board before its final decision in December.

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Parents were asked to place post-it notes during the consultation on what they thought most valid for the school district to provide for Aldergrove students. (Sarah Grochowski photo)

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