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Feb 28,2007 - TriCity News (Extra)

By Diane Strandberg Tri-City News
Feb 27 2007

A last-minute procedural question failed to stop trustees from voting to close five elementary schools during a long, confusing and sometimes rancourous school board meeting at Charles Best secondary Tuesday night.

Principles of College Park and Coronation Park in Port Moody, Vanier and Millside in Coquitlam and Lincoln in Port Coquitlam will be informed Wednesday that their schools will close at the end of June and a process for transition will be in place soon, board chair Melissa Hyndes confirmed.

Meanwhile three other schools Moody in Port Moody and Meadowbrook and Mountain View in Coquitlam will remain open, at least for now. The board approved a recommendation to keep Moody open until Port Moody's Official Community Plan process is concluded and will review the school's enrolment figures in the fall of 2008.

A slim majority of trustees also agreed to keep Meadowbrook open because of concerns about students crossing busy Lougheed Highway at rush hour and Mountain View will stay open after trustees unanimously rejected the senior leadership team's recommendations because of concerns the closure would affect social programs that support the school's vulnerable population.

Trustee Keith Watkins tried to get the closure process thrown out at the beginning of the meeting because he said a Nov. 28 decision to review enrolment and consider school closures contradicted an earlier motion that should have been rescinded. Chair Hyndes said she had the authority to make a ruling against his point of order and was supported by a majority of trustees.

Trustee John Keryluk, who backed Watkins in his effort to have the process stopped, also voted with him to oppose closure of every school on the list.

Calling the process "hasty" and the enrolment projections "suspect", Keryluk also introduced motions to stop closure of Vanier and College Park while Watkins called for a motion to keep Coronation Park open. Trustee Debra Burton introduced a motion against closing Lincoln and Meadowbrook, stating that seismic costs not education issues put Lincoln on the list, while Meadowbrook "didn't pass the gut test" because of traffic issues. Trustee Diane Sowden proposed Mountain View be taken off the closure list because "it's an area that needs social services," and the daycare has a waiting list and provides revenue to the school district. "This isn't about a community school, it's about a district program that's valuable," Sowden said.

In moving the recommendation to close Millside, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, Trustee Gail Alty said she sympathized with parents at all the schools she visited during the closure process but felt she had to consider the needs of the entire district while she was convinced students' education wouldn't suffer. "Look at the positive side," she urged parents.

With signs and banners in support of schools, approximately 120 people turned out for the meeting. Heckling from the crowd prompted chair Hyndes to call the meeting to order several times.

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