Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, called “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Each school trustee was asked the same question: Is the district ready to accept more refugees in the coming school year, whether from Afghanistan, Ukraine, or elsewhere?
Board chair Rod Ross
A. Langley School District is ready, willing, and able to receive whatever students arrive at our door.
Our district has always risen to any challenge. Be it a financial or a facility challenge our history and heart display our districts “whatever it takes“ mindset to meet the needs of our students.
When challenged with parents and students concerned about the COVID pandemic, we created within weeks an online school that was exceptional.
As the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” We have in the past shown what we are made of.
I have to say I am proud of the response of our parents, educators, staff, and administration who truly have worked together for all students success.
Notwithstanding, we cannot forget the role of our unique Langley School District Foundation once again displays the heart of our 4,000 member team. It is a shining example of what this “whatever it takes” school district will do to ensure everyone gets across the finish line!
I am so proud of the Langley School District.
There is a reason that Minister of Education regularly acknowledges our excellent work. Langley is a great school district on its way to being a world-class education system.
Trustee Shelley Coburn
A. There is very little space in most of our schools and there is has been no additional funding given to our district, and – in fact – budgets across the province have been cut.
With this being said the Langley School District has always supported and will continue to support all children and families. Langley has a long history of supporting refugees and their families, and this often begins in our schools.
I have seen first hand how schools become hubs for entire refugee communities. We do our best to fill the schools with the resources and people that these students will need to thrive in their new home.
Our staff goes above and beyond what is required of them – from setting up food banks during summer times and even changing what the bell sounds like at certain schools. For some child they remind them of the sounds of violence and chaos that they have fled. We provide translators and deliver correspondence to families in many different languages, providing supports for the whole family.
The issue is funding. Many refugees land in communities and then eventually make their way out from places where they cannot afford to live. Money that communities receive to support these families does not follow them into the community where they settle. This leaves the new community to provide the supports without the funding.
All I can say is that for the Langley School District to fully support these children and their families requires a concerted effort from the entire community and all levels of government.
Trustee Charlie Fox
A. The Langley School District has always welcomed immigrants and refugees from countries throughout the world with open arms, assuming all their documentation is in order.
The important thing is, that past experience with refugee groups coming to the district has given us good experience and knowledge on what best practice can be.
Our senior staff work hand-in-hand with the government agencies involved to ensure a smooth transition in to their new country and education system.
From an operational stand-point our educational leadership team at the school Bboard office and the ELL teams in the enrolling schools, will provide excellent leadership on a face-to-face student basis.
The challenge will be knowing how many students will actually be arriving, and in which school attendance areas we can expect them.
The present enrolment figures across the Ddistrict show most, if not all, schools are full to capacity so this may become an issue that must be dealt with.
In closing, are we as a district ‘ready’ to accept more refugees, the answer in my opinion is “yes, with open arms.”
Trustee Suzanne Perreault
A. This trustee failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Trustee David Tod
A. I wholeheartedly believe our district is capable of accepting refugees from around the world.
Some of our catchments are very crowded already, but we have room in certain areas.
This question would be best answered by our district leadership, as there is operational considerations.
I am one of seven trustees, but I would support a proposal to accept more refugees.
In the past, we have responded in a thorough and caring manner when called upon.
Trustee Tony Ward
A. The quick answer is “yes.”
Like all future enrolment, we do the best we can to anticipate growth. However, admittedly at times there may be surprises.
With respect to the possibility of the Langley School District receiving a significant number of students in any particular year who are refugees from countries where English is not the primary language, this clearly creates additional challenges.
English Language Learners (ELL) require additional resources to assist them in their integration in school, as well as the community at large.
Moreover, it’s important that newcomers to Langley feel welcomed, supported, heard, and appreciated.
By connecting refugee students with programs too, both in and out of schools where support workers can come in and speak their native languages, refugee students can be guided from the enrolment process through their school years to achieve their full potential.
Our staff continue to do an excellent job managing limited funding, facilities, and staff to ensure that the district can quickly adapt and manoeuvre in our rapidly increasing and ever dynamic educational environment.
Trustee Marnie Wilson
A. This trustee failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Next week, Langley MLAS are being asked: Should the province take advantage of cooling home prices to create more co-ops/affordable rentals/social housing options in Langley?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.
Is there more to the story? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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