Seven of eight Tri-City public elementary schools being considered for closure could be shut down this June if trustees approve recommendations made public this week.
Last night, after The Tri-City News’ deadline, trustees were expected to consider a staff recommendation to close College Park and Coronation Park elementary schools in Port Moody; Meadowbrook, Millside, Mountain View and Vanier in Coquitlam; and Lincoln in Port Coquitlam.
All the schools being considered for closure were chosen either because they’re operating at a capacity of less than 50% required by the provincial Ministry of Education or because the cumulative capacity of schools in their area is less than 65%. Age, location and operational costs, as listed in the district’s closure Policy 15, were not given as reasons for closing the schools this time around.
Moody elementary, with 96 students and 39% capacity, was not recommended for closure as yet because School District 43 is awaiting the outcome of PoMo’s official community plan process, which could change development in the area, resulting in different enrolment projections.
Tuesday’s expected decisions were to come after a three-month process, which included two rounds of school meetings and two nights of public input meetings last week. Hundreds of parents and children turned out to convince trustees to keep their schools open.
A decision to close the seven schools would mean about 700 students would have to change schools and several day cares, a Montessori school, community programs, a social adjustment program and an Aboriginal kindergarten would have to relocate.
At one school, Lincoln, busing is recommended for 2007/’08 while Victoria Drive undergoes construction, and Porter elementary school, a receiving school if Mountain View and Vanier close, is supposed to be under construction for seismic repairs next year, which could have some bearing on student relocation.
If College Park is closed it could still be used for classrooms while Seaview undergoes seismic repairs next year.
Moody elementary school parents are relieved their school has missed this round of closures.
But parent advisory council secretary Carol Grice said she and other parents are still shocked that seven of eight schools are being recommended for closure.
And she said Moody is not guaranteed to stay open in as its future depends on the outcome of the city’s official community plan process, enrolment and what direction trustees and the district will take.
“We still don’t know will happen over the next year or two,” she said.
This is the second time the school has been considered for closure and it could be looked at again next fall, when board policy requires data relating to the “educational and economic impact of declining and/or shifting enrolment” be presented, possibly initiating another school closure process.
Since 2001, enrolment has declined by 2,500 students, 1600 of them at elementary schools. A further decline in enrolment of 2,300 students is expected over the next five years, according to school district projections.
A decision by trustees to go ahead with seven closures would bring to 10 the number of schools closed in the district since 2003.
Meanwhile, the city of Port Moody is still not satisfied with the district’s school closure process. Acting mayor Meghan Lahti fired off a letter to trustees Tuesday calling for more consultation. Lahti stated in her letter that College Park and Seaview should share administration so both schools can stay open, a model that will be used during seismic upgrading, and Coronation Park should stay open to accommodate new families that will move in because of development in the area.
“We have a duty to protect the interests of the thousands of families who have made commitments to pre-purchase family-oriented units in buildings that are currently under construction,” Lahti stated in her letter.
Noting that school officials have yet to meet with city staff as promised Feb. 23, Lahti called on trustees to participate in the city’s official community plan process.
“I need to reiterate that despite several requests, we have yet to have a meeting between Port Moody council and school trustees on this matter,” Lahti wrote.
The district’s school closure process, which began Nov. 28, is not sitting well with parents either, according to an online survey by the District Parent Advisory Council.
Interim DPAC chair Richard Stewart said 100 people replied to the survey and 80% said the process was too rushed and the announcement too hasty, giving parents little warning (89%) with the result that many parents (73%) thought the decision was made before the consultation even began.
Another 70% of respondents said they didn’t get answers to their questions, 95% said trustee attendance at school meetings should have been mandatory and 90% didn’t have confidence in SD43’s enrolment projections.
Stewart said although the survey sample was small, respondents were deeply involved in the process and offered good insight into some of the issues, many of which were experienced during the last round of school closures in 2003.
“We ought to be siting down with the school board to figure out a way to deal with these things in the long term,” he said, noting the process to initiate school closures came “as a surprise to everyone.”