Mar 2,2007 - Tricity News

By Diane Strandberg The Tri-City News
Mar 02 2007

Mountain View elementary school staff and parents held fingers to their eyes to stop tears from flowing following a unanimous decision to keep their school open Tuesday.

Mountain View was one of three schools that will remain open, following a lengthy, confusing and sometimes rancourous school board meeting Tuesday evening at Dr. Charles Best secondary. The other two schools that were saved are Meadowbrook and Moody elementary while five others – Coronation Park and College Park in Port Moody, Vanier and Millside in Coquitlam, and Lincoln in Port Coquitlam – will close their doors at the end of June.

“This was a big thing for the kids,” said Svetlana Gibson, a Grade 5 teacher at Mountain View. “This is for them. This is what they wanted.”

But Gibson was one of but a few relieved parents and teachers in the crowd who turned out to out to witness votes on the closure of an unprecedented number of schools in School District 43, which has faced a decline of 2,500 students in the last five years, 1,600 in the elementary grades.

With banners draped behind them and holding signs, approximately 120 people turned out for the meeting. A few even heckled trustees after closure decisions, which took almost three hours to make and required more than two dozen votes.

Trustees were persuaded to keep Meadowbrook open for traffic concerns and Mountain View was kept for its social programs for vulnerable students. Moody, meanwhile, will stay open until the city of Port Moody concludes an official community plan process that could change enrolment projections.

PoMo trustee Keith Watkins tried to get the closure process thrown out at the beginning of the meeting. He said the Nov. 28 decision launching the process was invalid because it contradicted an earlier motion that should have been rescinded. Board chair and fellow PoMo trustee Melissa Hyndes said she had the authority to make a ruling against his point of order and was supported by a majority of trustees.

Calling the process “hasty” and the enrolment projections “suspect”, Port Coquitlam trustee John Keryluk introduced motions to stop closure of Vanier and College Park schools while Watkins called for a motion to keep Coronation Park open.

“The numbers simply don’t bear up to close Vanier,” Keryluk said.

Watkins suggested annexing Seaview with College Park, which may even be opened for classes when Seaview undergoes seismic repairs. He said annexing the schools would save money and keep both schools viable.

“It boggles my mind,” he said. “You asked people to do the research... they did. To close the school for seismic reasons, that’s wrong.”

PoCo trustee Debra Burton introduced a motion against closing Lincoln and Meadowbrook, stating seismic costs, not education issues, put the former on the list while the latter “didn’t pass the gut test” because of traffic issues.

Coquitlam trustee Diane Sowden proposed Mountain View be taken off the closure list because “it’s an area that needs social services,” and the daycare situated there 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, Coquitlam 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.

In the end, many trustees followed geographic lines to support schools in their area.

PoMo’s Hyndes wanted to keep all three Port Moody schools open and said decisions should wait until more development information is in.

PoCo’s Burton backed Lincoln and Sowden, a Coquitlam trustee, proposed saving Mountain View.

Many parents left the meeting disappointed while others lingered to find out what the future will hold.

During the public input portion of the meeting, Meadowbrook parent Linda Allen called for a “moratorium” on the process “so we don’t have to go through this again” while Coronation Park parent Dawn Cartwright asked where children from families moving to Inlet Centre in PoMo will go to school.

Richard Stewart, interim chair of the District Parent Advisory Council, called for a meeting with trustees “to find a better way” to handle school closure processes in the future.