No help on Maple Ridge school catchments

Coun. Corisa Bell made a motion to require developers to tell the public about school catchment areas.

Maple Ridge council has given thumbs down to a proposal that could help tell new arrivals about whether their kids will be able to go to schools close to home.

A motion by Coun. Corisa Bell to require developers to tell the public about school catchment areas was rejected in a tie vote last week.

Bell wanted information on school capacities to be included as part of development information meetings, held before new housing projects get underway.

But other councillors said that wouldn’t work.

Such meetings are usually held for people who already live in the area, and by the time home purchasers show up, it could be three years, said Coun. Tyler Shymkiw.

“I think it’s primarily at the marketing stage that information becomes very relevant to the consumer.”

Coun. Kiersten Duncan liked the intent, but had similar thoughts.

“I do worry that, by the time developments are complete, the information may have changed drastically by that time,” Duncan said.

“I appreciate the spirit of this,” said Mayor Nicole Read.

But information on school catchment areas could be inaccurate by the time people move into their homes, she said.

“I don’t think this is necessarily the best way to get that information out to the public.”

She also worried about putting that responsibility on to the developers.

“And we would want that information to be accurate.”

Bell said later that during the previous council when the school board, recreation commission and city councillors met, she suggested that signs be posted outside schools so that new arrivals knew that schools were full.

That wasn’t successful, so Bell would like it to be included in a “development charter” that would set out principles for building in Maple Ridge.

“I just feel that we can do better than that. With these working relationships [between the city and school board], there’s no reason for us not to be communicating in a more fulsome way.”

Bell also said many development information meetings pertain to infill projects that are being planned within existing neighbourhoods.

School trustee Susan Carr said information about school attendance areas is on the school district’s website by clicking on the “parents” tab. However, the details change constantly.

While the website shows a catchment area, it doesn’t guarantee that people can send their kids to that school. That’s determined at the time of registration, Carr said.

Even posting signs outside a school saying that it’s at capacity may not work because the information would change constantly. She would have liked for the school district to be told in advance about the motion so it could have had someone at the meeting to answer questions.

Duncan, Shymkiw and Read voted against the idea, leading to its defeat in a tie vote. Coun. Craig Speirs was absent.


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