A little creativity needed in building schools

The bizarre tale of Langley School District trying to get rid of a school site in an area that is bursting with children makes little sense.

There is no question that a new school site is needed in the Yorkson neighbourhood, even with a new school now being built there. The new developments west of 208 Street will generate a large number of school children, and there is still much more developable land in the vicinity.

To solve that problem, the district plans to swap a site it owns on 70 Avenue for another on 84 Avenue. Townhouses are now planned for the school site.

The trouble is, a school is also needed in the Routley area. There are 500 school-aged children in the neighbourhood, and likely there will be more in the future, as land north of 72 Avenue is developed.

The same scenario exists west of the 196 Street border in Surrey. Children in the new homes in East Clayton, on both the north and south sides of the 72 Avenue corridor, also face severe crowding in local schools.

The existing neighbourhood school, Hazelgrove, is probably the most overcrowded school in Surrey. That’s saying something, as Surrey is the province’s largest school district and the fastest-growing one, by a long shot.

If common sense were to prevail, and artificial boundaries didn’t get in the way, the best solution would be for the two school districts to jointly build a new elementary school which could service students in both Langley and Surrey.

That way, many students would not have to cross busy streets like 200 Street or 192 Street to get to school. There would be more than enough children in the area to keep a school full for years to come.

I don’t know if the Surrey School District owns a property in the area, but Langley still does at present — the property on 70 Avenue. Its sale is conditional on rezoning being granted by Langley Township council.

Perhaps if the Langley board can’t make building the Routley school a top priority, a joint effort with Surrey could convince the ministry of education that a school is needed now to serve both areas.

A school in Langley which could handle some of the Surrey students who live to the immediate west would go a long way towards easing overcrowding at Hazelgrove. It would also ease overcrowding at Langley Meadows and R.C. Garnett Elementaries.

Yes, it would cause some new challenges in figuring out exactly who pays what portion of the costs at the new school, but ultimately, all funds for education come out of taxpayers’ pockets. The provincial government plays a bigger role in allocating education funds than it used to, so all that is needed to make a new school serving students in two districts happen is a little creativity.

This is not simply a matter of fairness for families who bought homes in the area in good faith, knowing that a school was planned for the area. It is also a matter of ensuring that there is a new school in an area which is far from built out.

If a new school serving students of two districts can be built sooner than one in each district, let’s consider doing so.