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Dec 6,2006 - TriCity News

By Diane Strandberg Tri-City News
Dec 06 2006

Four of eight Tri-City elementary schools being considered for closure in June were on the list last time and parent groups hope their schools will escape the axe again.

“I’m hoping we can come up with different things we can do to convince the school district it’s a crappy idea to close the school,” said Jamie McCullough, president of the Vanier elementary parent advisory council.

She said the news last week that School District 43 is considering eight schools for closure came as a surprise to many parents, some of whom have expressed frustration they have to go through the process again.

The last time the district closed schools was in 2003. Only three were shut down and leased to other groups but many more were on the list for consideration.

McCullough said her PAC is planning a special meeting before parents meet with district administrative staff next week to find out more about the district’s criteria for closing schools.

The district has scheduled meetings next week with PACs and school planning councils at the eight schools under consideration for closure.

The first round of public input meetings for each school is slated for Jan. 8 to 12, with a decision expected by Feb. 27.

Dawn Cartwright, vice-president of the Coronation Park elementary PAC, said she was surprised to see her school on the list again considering its importance to the community and the convenience of a daycare on site. But she said most parents are taking the news calmly and she expects many to attend a meeting tonight.

“They just want to know what’s going on,” she said.

Cartwright, the only parent to speak at last Tuesday’s special board meeting, said the district erred by not informing parents that a school closure decision was on the agenda.

“That was misleading. They obviously knew what they were doing,” she said, adding she fears a quick decision will create anxiety for parents who will have to re-arrange their lives in short order if their school is closed.

Other schools that were on the list last time for possible closure and are being considered again are College Park and Moody.

The news of more possible closures travelled quickly throughout parent communities last week after letters went home to parents. But some PACs say they want more information before commenting. Chris St. Germain from Meadowbrook’s PAC said parents are hoping to get more information at a Dec. 14 meeting with the district.

Meanwhile, local politicians are weighing in. New Democrat MLAs Diane Thorne (Coquitlam-Maillardville) and Mike Farnworth (Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain) issued a press release Monday blaming provincial government underfunding for possible school closures at Millside, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, and Lincoln, which was slated for seismic repairs this year. And Port Moody-Westwood Liberal MLA Iain Black issued his own education report, which highlighted a 4.8% decline in school enrolment locally while provincial funding to the district has gone up 7.3%

Port Coquitlam Coun. Greg Moore is organizing a neighbourhood meeting for Lincoln parents, said PAC president Zoe Ricard, noting, “The feeling is we are going to do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t close.”

And Tina Feaver, Millside PAC treasurer, said a meeting for Millside parents is being organized by Richard Stewart, who chairs the District Parent Advisory Council and is a Coquitlam councillor.

“They just can’t do this to us,” Feaver said, noting that 100th anniversary planning is already underway.

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