D.W. Poppy Secondary PAC president Laurel Horn is asking parents to attend meetings and fill out the district’s survey if they have concerns over the possibility of a middle school. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

D.W. Poppy middle school plans raise parent concerns

The head of the PAC is asking people to make their voices heard

Parents worried about D.W. Poppy’s transition to a middle school have been speaking out as the Langley School District began consultations on the plan this month.

Parents weren’t opposed outright to the idea of a middle school for kids in their area, the largest high school catchment by far in Langley, said Laurel Horn, president of the Poppy Parents Advisory Council (PAC).

Parents of Grade 6, 7, and 8 students have been hoping for changes that would give their kids access to more equipment and resources that have been seen at the new middle schools sprouting up in Willoughby.

“Ever since Yorkson [Middle School] went in, we’ve been fighting for a piece of the pie,” said Horn.

Middle school discussions for D.W. Poppy began back in 2017, but the first recommendation was to create an internal middle school within the existing Poppy building.

Students from Grade 6 to 12 would attend the school, with changes to the facility to keep middle and secondary students separated.

But earlier this year, the district changed directions, with a report that pushed towards a model that would transform Poppy into a middle school, with students from Grade 9 to 12 attending Aldergrove Community Secondary. One reason for the potential change is that Aldergrove Secondary has a lot of room – it has around 500 students. That’s less than half its capacity.

In addition, multiple requests for $4.5 million from the provincial Ministry of Education, necessary for the renovations to create an internal Poppy Middle School, were denied twice by Victoria.

In the absence of funding, the district staff recommended the new plan.

READ MORE: Langley’s D.W. Poppy could become middle school: district

The knee-jerk reaction from some parents is that their kids won’t be going to Aldergrove if the change happens, said Horn.

“Poppy’s catchment is two-thirds of Langley Township,” she noted. Students from Fort Langley and Glen Valley, through most of central rural Langley and as far as Zero Avenue at the border all attend that high school currently.

Turning it into a middle school could complicate the drives or bus schedules of students and parents, said Horn.

There’s no public transit alternative for kids attending Poppy – which means if they want to do after-school extracurricular activities, they need a ride home.

Transportation logistics for parents could get even worse if there are three or more kids in one family, as one could attend an elementary school, one Poppy, and one Aldergrove, Horn noted.

The uncertainty and possibility of the change means some parents are already considering taking their kids to other schools. Although catchments define where most students can attend, parents can take their kids to other schools, including Walnut Grove, the newly rebuilt R.E. Mountain, or specialty programs like Langley Fine Arts in Fort Langley.

“We’ve lost a lot of kids to Langley Christian,” noted Horn.

She said that ultimately, many parents don’t want the change to a middle school because they value the teachers and staff at Poppy, some of whom have been there for decades. The school hosts a huge Greg Leino Alumni basketball tournament every year, raising money for scholarships, and the annual Poppy Car Show is one of the largest in B.C.

“We have a staff that ensures we have the largest number of sports teams fielded in the district, despite our small size, and those teams are mostly coached by staff members,” Horn said.

READ MORE: Input sought from Aldergrove parents on a future middle school

The ideal solution would not be a middle school, but increased ministry or district funding that could enhance Poppy and encourage more parents to enrol their children there, Horn said.

The district kicked off an autumn of consultation with parents in September, with six forums planned over several months in both Aldergrove and the Poppy catchment areas.

Horn is encouraging people to turn out at the Oct. 10 meeting at D.W. Poppy from 6 to 8 p.m., and to give online feedback to the district.

“If you have an opinion about it, make sure that you put it in words, don’t gripe about it in the parking lot,” said Horn.

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