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.
MOST RECENT – AT YOUR SERVICE: Future of Aldergrove core up for debate
Each school trustee was asked the same question: What is the future of middle-school education in rural Langley and Walnut Grove, where it has not yet been implemented?
Board chair Rod Ross
A. Our district set out to embrace “middle schools” some years back.
Our intention is to spread them throughout the district over time.
Our last areas to implement them is Walnut Grove, D.W. Poppy, and Brookswood.
We have them clearly stated in our long-term facilities plan. This plan alerts the ministry what we see our capital (buildings) needs will be in the next five years or so.
We met with the two areas to engage in discussions on how this would come about. The results of those community discussions did not see a clear path forward.
The intention, as always, is to implement middle schools district-wide for our families; however, it is not viable in all of our families of schools at this time.
With development of Brookswood coming, I expect that we will receive the capital costs to build out new schools in that area – but it will take some time.
While the board will keep the idea of “new middle schools” in our five-year capital plan, it really is just not viable at this time.
The government also expects the district to put some of its own money in the pot and that would just take education dollars from the classroom and that is not something that we can afford to do in our tight budget situation.
We are a united district that values excellence, but we are not a “uniform” district and will have to live with different ways to deliver learning for the foreseeable future.
Trustee Shelley Coburn
A. This trustee failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Trustee Charlie Fox
A. Since I was elected to the board of school trustees 11 months ago there has been no discussion on either of the two school areas related to middle-school transitions you raise.
I understand there was an extensive consultation with the D.W. Poppy catchment area about future options for the school, before I became a trustee. And, after significant public input, any potential changes related to the school configuration were not endorsed by the board, and as such the school catchment and configuration have been left untouched.
As for any future changes to the present status, this would require another round of public consultation, and I do not feel there is an appetite for that in the near future.
As for transitioning to a middle-school model in the Walnut Grove area, this is an issue that will take a great deal of time and consultation before any change is made.
Presently, with the other priorities the district and we – as a board – have on the table at this time, I do not see that happening in the near future.
One point that has to be made is that any transition to the middle-school model would require a financial commitment, which would have to be paid for from our existing budget as the Ministry of Education has made it clear that transitions such as moving to a middle-school model, must be internally funded.
My priority in these times of a pandemic is to ensure ministry operating funds are spent in the classroom, on staffing schools properly, and providing the best programs and learning environment we can to allow for the greatest degree of student success.
Trustee Suzanne Perreault
A. The five-year capital plan prioritizes to build schools where need exist with an existing approved motion form the board in alignment with the district’s plan that is brought before the Ministry of Education to alert them of our needs.
This goes with the understanding that the district is called to providing financial contributions to all projects moving forward as guided by our core values ensuring quality education.
As such, the district continues to move towards calls that derived from the D.W. Poppy middle school consultation with improvements established in the Aldergrove community and discussions moving forward for the D.W. Poppy community.
Trustee David Tod
A. Thanks for the question!
Early on in this board’s current term, we discussed this topic and the verdict was that as a board, we were committed to the middle-schools model.
We embraced the concept of unity throughout our district and began the conversation around the futures of D.W. Poppy and ACSS.
We reviewed the input given, and as a result we have status quo in that area.
This year, we have completed some major renovations and additional space at Betty Gilbert and ACSS.
We have now surpassed having over half of our students in Grades 6 to 8 attending middle schools, and reopened the former RE Mountain site as a thriving Peter Ewert Middle School.
We continue to advocate for additional capital dollars, as outlined in our five-year capital plan.
In the Brookswood catchment, growth will likely power the building of elementary and middle schools.
Unfortunately, the dream of having all our students experience middle school is still in process.
This board was “onboard” with that goal.
Trustee Tony Ward
A. Firstly, it is important to note that the Langley School District is committed to deliver the very best education to each and every student regardless of what school model is utilized.
The primary goal for any change in school model is improving educational outcomes for all students.
Admittedly, we currently have a hybrid of four school models.
New and previous standard:
• K-5 elementary, 6-8 middle, 9-12 secondary – new standard
• K-7 elementary, 8-12 secondary – previous standard
Unique ‘Choice Program’ arrangements:
• K-5 elementary, 6-12 middle/secondary – Langley Fundamental Schools
• K-12 – Langley Fine Arts School
In alignment with the district’s long-term facilities plan, the board’s long-term commitment to a district-wide, middle-school model will continue.
Furthermore, discussions with the D.W. Poppy area will carry on; the D.W. Poppy middle school public engagement/consultation has already led to educational advancements in the Aldergrove region.
Among other considerations, the transition to middle schools in each of our families of schools will gradually move forward subject to:
• financial limitations (Ministry of Education funding),
• District funding (SD35 will be required to contribute financially),
• consideration of current resources (school facilities and the need/cost to right-size/retrofit specific projects),
• ongoing demographics analysis (projecting student enrolment from individual communities due to growth/development)
Presently the middle-school model is not viable in all areas.
Nevertheless, district leadership continues to investigate future middle-school possibilities; the next phases of development in the Brookswood area may just provide one such opportunity potentially within this decade.
Trustee Marnie Wilson
A. Langley is a middle-school district. That was a decision made long before I became a trustee, and has been implemented in our new schools and future school plans.
As we have witnessed in previous years, changing existing schools can create a volatile situation, it divides communities and forces school communities to feel like they need to fight for their school.
Sometimes doing what the research tells us is more educationally sound, comes at a cost that is just too high.
Therefore, we will continue to consult and work with all partner groups and school communities in a thoughtful way to decide if and when there can be changes made to existing schools.
In the meantime, as there is growth in an area, we will implement the middle-school model into our new builds.
Ultimately, it is the people who deliver education, no matter the location or model being used. We are fortunate that Langley has so many exceptional educators that deliver the best education possible to our students.
Next week, Langley MLAS are being asked: Should the provincial government provide support for landowners wishing to reforest suburban and rural lands, in areas like Langley, as part of the fight against climate change?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.
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