D.W. Poppy Secondary could be transformed into a middle school, with high school students for a large swathe of rural and central Langley heading to Aldergrove Secondary within a few years.
The Langley Board of Education voted Tuesday to begin consultation on options on possibly transitioning to a middle school. Staff are to report back in December.
The board softened a motion that could have pushed more strongly towards the middle school model for D.W. Poppy in favour of exploring all options. Staff had recommended the middle school option for Poppy.
In 2017, a district report recommended creating a middle school within D.W. Poppy. Students from Grade 6 to Grade 12 would attend the school, with changes to the facility to keep the middle school and secondary students separated.
“The focus was centre-stage on the students,” said assistant superintendent Woody Bradford.
However, those changes to accommodate both streams in one facility would have required capital funding from the provincial government. It would have taken two to four years to make changes to the school.
“In order for this to happen, we had to have financial support to get to a place of being able to convert the middle school, the facility, the way we wanted it,” said Bradford.
However, no construction funding was forthcoming from the province.
“We’ve now made two requests for ministry funding, and we haven’t yet received that money,” Bradford told the school board Tuesday.
That left three options to be considered by a Transition Committee that was looking at the middle school plan.
• Ask the Ministry of Education for construction funds yet again
• Place portables on the Poppy site to accommodate at least one grade group
• Transform Poppy into a stand-alone middle school feeding into Aldergrove Secondary
The committee recommended the third option.
Considerations included impacts on the busing schedule and extracurricular activities for students, as well as staffing issues.
The D.W. Poppy Parents Advisory Council (PAC) was briefed by the school’s principal on the options on Tuesday night, said PAC president Marlene Yakabuski.
“There were a lot of questions, some concerns,” said Yakabuski.
She said the main hope is that the district does a thorough consultation.
She noted the change could shorten bus trips for some students while lengthening them for others.
“D.W. Poppy already is a very large catchment,” Yakabuski said.
The consultation is to involve parents and staff from both the ACSS and D.W. Poppy school regions.
School board Chair Megan Dykeman said no hard deadline has been placed on drafting a report from consultation with the Poppy and ACSS school communities.
The district will pull together a consultation team over the summer and begin speaking to staff and parents after school resumes in the fall.
While schools in Willoughby have numerous portables and new schools are being built every few years, rural areas have seen slowly declining enrolment since peaks in the 1980s and 1990s.
Enrolment in Aldergrove, including Aldergrove Community Secondary (ACSS) has been relatively static, and has 614 students this year. A 2017 district report noted it had a significant amount of underutilized space.
D.W. Poppy had 841 students this year, with an operating capacity of 1,125.
If ACSS became the primary high school, it could have about 1,100 students.
About 130 students from the Aldergrove catchment already attend Poppy.
D.W. Poppy has by far the largest catchment area of any secondary school in Langley. It includes the rural lands from Zero Avenue in the south to the Fraser River in the north. Fort Langley, Glen Valley, the Otter and Harmsworth areas, all currently feed into Poppy.