Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 13, 2008 - North Langley Second (feb 11) Consultation Meeting

Second North Langley Area Consultation Meeting

There were approximately 100 people in attendance. There was a heavy contingent of staff in those numbers and I think more teachers. There were not more than 10 parents at any given session I attended.

Ms. Beaumont stated that there were about 140 parents who attended the first consultation meeting.

The evening consisted of an introduction, a choice of three sessions from a selection of five topics, and a brief conclusion. How can this produce a complete picture for the parents? Yes, they may not be interested in all of the topics but need all information to provide informed input. Consultation works better when everyone has the same information.

At each session there was a presentation from staff on the specific topics then a question period. There were no roundtable discussions or “table talk” as indicated on the agenda, at any of the sessions I attended – not even in the wrap up. Mr. Burton thanked us for attending and stated that the trustees who were present were there to listen to what the parents concerns and questions were. The one absent trustee had not advised the Board or district staff of the reason for their absence. According to Mr. Burton, it was expected that every trustee was attending as they had not heard anything otherwise.

At the next meeting on February 28th at REMSS, Mr. McAvoy’s report will be presented. Presumably, the public will have an opportunity to respond to the report. There was no mention of a complete report for the district as whole. Wonder when that will come?


I did not listen to this session but this is what I heard from several people who did attend….

A very general overview of adolescents during these years and the organization of a middle school were provided by Mr. Lenarduzzi. One person said that what was disappointing was that there was no clear explanation of how exactly a middle school differs from what is now being provided. The presentation listed areas of focus that middle schools would address but there was no acknowledgement of the fact that most of what was listed is already happening in the schools. Another comment I heard was that if they were a grade 6-8 teacher, they might have been offended; and if they were a parent who was new to the school system, they might believe that many of the things listed like assessment, social problems, etc. were not being dealt with in classes right now. There was no mention at one session that there were economic concerns related to the middle school configuration although I heard that it was mentioned in another session on middle schools.

Questions were asked about research on middle schools and the audience was told that there was research to support varying points of view and that the source of the research should be considered. Parents asked about the likelihood of a middle school in the Walnut Grove area and in the Willoughby area. I believe the answer was that it would not be likely in the Walnut Grove area anytime in the near future. Apparently, it sounded like it might be a consideration in the Willoughby area - perhaps even an IB middle school; but the timeline was for sometime in the next few years depending upon enrolment growth.


The International Baccalaureate session had several questions recorded on their sheets.

They handed out Booklets that the International Baccalaureate Organization 2007 published titled 1) The IB Primary Years Programme, 2) The IB Middle Years Programme, 3) The IB Diploma Programme, 4) IB Education for a better world.

The students require 10 hours more of community service than students not in the program. A question was asked whether a student’s grade point average would drop because this is a more challenging program. The answer I understood was no. I was later told that the program has a different grading system.

I asked the question: Do the IB Students get short changed if they go into university with the ability to take the 2nd year courses? Do they then have trouble getting first year courses in their 2nd term? The answer was no and the students who have a diploma from the full program do get credits for first year courses.

My thoughts on this were, since they are going to have 2 new schools on the slope, I wonder what the chances are that there is one K-5 elementary IB and one 6-8 IB middle school offering? Either at HD or one of the new schools close to RE Mountain.


Much of the info on facilities was about the artificial turf playing fields, soccer and rugby fields, and the three large gymnasia that will be available for use to RE Mountain students during school hours at the Langley Events Centre. The district has leased the property that has the playing fields of artificial turf to the Township for a $1.00 per year. There was no mention of how long the lease was. This facility is expected to be ready for BC’s 150th Birthday – although it will not be completely ready until early 2009. The school district is still in negotiations in regards to use of facilities and land and other terms of the lease. “Partnerships” for the Events Centre are suggested to be anywhere between $125,000 to 3.5 million dollars.
As an after thought, I wonder what the additional time it will take for the students to get to gym classes, especially during inclement weather? I would expect at least a 15 to 30-minute extension to time tables to enable students to access the Events Centre.

RE Mountain is expected to have a population of 830 students next year with it going up to 860 in 2009.
They are hoping to receive the capital funding for a 450-seat expansion. They are expecting ESL students to have an impact on both RE Mountain and WGSS. The ISP students in that number will not displace any in catchment students.

The deteriorating condition of the WGSS track came up and there was a bit of discussion with no answers except that the Township is not interested at this time in discussing the track. They will not allot the property to make it an 8-lane track. The condition of the track is now at the point of being dangerous. The district will have to take action to solve the problem. One parent suggested making it a dirt track. There will be no track at the RE Mountain facility. If the WGSS track in not repaired and just removed the community will be left with only the track near LSS with a track facility at McLeod Park. Much of the use, or misuse, as I have seen strollers, bikes, etc. on the track, comes from the community as well as from the school. Students use it only three-quarters of the year and mostly during school hours. If the township invested money to build it, it should also invest in its maintenance and refurbishment before building new facilities. Why is pool maintenance is in the budget but not track maintenance. Do we not have any township councilors living in the WGSS area?

There is on going discussion with Township in regards to traffic HOT SPOTS including 80th Ave. and 200th St. There will be an overpass on 200th St. and 66th or 70th Ave. seems to be some indecision on the part of the Township in that area.

There are presently 3 areas that could be sites for new schools 199th St. and 70th Ave.
210th St. and 83rd Ave. and 206th St. and 68th Ave. The district is looking at acquiring one more piece of property for future expansion.

Topham is maintaining its enrolment and West Langley is on decline with the other four elementary schools showing strong enrolments. They anticipate that there will be about 300 – 350 open seats in Walnut Grove to accommodate any students from the Willoughby slope in the interim before getting the two new elementary schools built. The expectation is to have two if not three more elementary schools in the next five years. However, the idea of a middle school has been floated about. As of next year RC Garnett will go up to grade 7 with an expected enrolment of 363 the school has a capacity of 335. Therefore they are expecting to use one if not two portables or “modular units” to accommodate the students. This will probably be the solution for LSS and HD Stafford for the next few years. My question is where do they expect to put these portables? Tear up the new playground just put in at RC Garnett?

Willoughby Elementary is expected to have an enrolment of 482 students with the capacity of 475 they are expecting to use one portable there too. I have the same question - traffic and lack of space; where are they going to put it? The Township and the Board of Education had better get their act together fast before an accident happens. Right now, the traffic around the school is dangerous for students from what I hear. What will happen with all this growth and over capacity issues? The district is aware of the traffic issues and hopefully they will be worked out sooner rather than later but parents should keep on pressing the issue to let both of them know the urgency of the situation.


Various district career and trades programs available at ACSS and LSS were presented. They stated that there were only 18 students permitted in the Piping class and at the present time, there is not a waitlist. There is a selection process and the district is looking for students who truly wish to put in the effort required for the trade they are interested in. Hairdressing, Carpentry and Automotive Service Technician are available at ACSS. Piping/plumbing is available at LSS.

It was mentioned that they offer trades at two of the schools to spread around the accessibility instead of only concentrating them in one school like ACSS. Then the question was asked - if that was true, then why are there no trades programs in the linear schools when they have the population to support such ventures. It was stated that these programs are more geared towards working with semester schools. It is possible though with a strong staff and student commitment to make it workable for a student in a linear school.

There are also apprenticeship programs available with Kwantlen University College, UCFV, Vancouver Community College and Langley College. There are a fair number of WGSS students who have taken advantage of the Dual-Credit Programs. Some programs being offered are bricklaying, small engines, horticulture and welding. They are proposing to offer a cook training program at LSS for 2010. This is not the same as the chef training electives offered at ACSS and WGSS. I wonder, since the ACSS population will be further gutted, why the suggestion of making it the district’s Trade school is not being done. They plan on offering another specialty in the future at LSS when they have already advised there will be at least 4 portables in use. Where will they accommodate the classroom displacement from the cafeteria being built for the Cook Training? Why are they not using one of the schools that already have the facilities? Is that not what the province wishes them to do, maximize the existing facilities, not build new?

The reason Ms. Beaumont gave to the HD Stafford community for not building a cafeteria was that most districts only have one cafeteria program and that Langley was lucky in that it already had two – ACSS and WGSS. I ask, then why are they spending more money on a cooking facility at LSS? Why not utilize what we already have and better utilize the facilities we already have? The north area of the district has very few district trades program and yet it has a higher student population. Don’t our students need similar opportunities closer to their homes as well?


Again, I did not attend this session and will rely on the parents I spoke with.

I understand that a brief overview of the various provincial, district, and school-based programs available were listed on a handout. As well, other initiatives and professional development opportunities for teachers in order to support special needs students were mentioned. They also talked about how many district special education staff and school staff for special education they had. However, at least one person felt that the information was somewhat misleading because they stated how many staff or teachers, but did not say how many FTE (full time equivalent) this equaled – and this is a considerable difference in some cases because many teachers work part-time.

There was a lot of concern about the time it took to get students assessed and access to the various programs. Parents were told that some of the services were very specific and others were ones that parents could ask for. This gave rise to a very good question that I understand a parent asked – how can parents ask for services that they are not aware exist for their child? I was told that the district person did acknowledge that this might be a problem and that they could do better. I hope they get working on this quickly.

General Comments

Several people left throughout the evening as they felt that the evening was useless. Others I spoke to who stayed said that they did not understand how this was consultation as they were not being asked any real questions. They also were confused as to what questions they were supposed to be asking and what kind of input was being asked of them. As I said earlier, there was no table talk at any of the sessions that the people I spoke to attended, except for one session even though that was clearly the intent of the evening as it was on the agenda. I don’t think that the process is true consultation when no one has all the information, only parts of it. How can we give good feedback if we don’t have the full picture, or at least the fullest that we can get? Those parents who did not go to the middle school session may not be aware that a middle school could be a consideration on the Willoughby slope so how can they give input if all they know from the facilities and demographics is that there are three elementary schools planned for that area? If neither of those two groups attended the IB program session, then how are they to know that an IB middle school program exists and could be an option? Again, how can they give input if they are not made aware?

One parent mentioned that no questions were asked about timetabling or coordinated scheduling between schools even though “everyone” knows that it is being considered as a possibility. I guess those changes are going to be made regardless of how people feel about it.

Consultation - did it meet your expectations? Google the definition and see if that is what you got.

Go to to see the presentations and comments.

As of noon today Feb13. They had only two of the 6 presentations posted so would think it should be done by Friday.

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