Overcrowding forces catchment changes in Maple Ridge

Changes proposed by school district 42 could split up siblings

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District is redrawing elementary school catchment boundaries in east Maple Ridge to relieve pressure on overcrowded schools.

However, the boundary changes could result in siblings not being able to attend the same school.

All three schools in east Maple Ridge are currently over capacity, with Albion currently at 123 per cent of capacity, while Alexander Robinson is at 114 per cent, and Kanaka Creek is at 103 per cent.

Under the proposed changes, the catchment areas for Albion, Alexander Robinson, and Kanaka Creek would shrink, while the catchments for Blue Mountain, Webster’s Corners, and Whonnock elementary schools would be expanded.

Webster’s Corner is currently at 64 per cent of capacity, while Blue Mountain is at 71 per cent.

The school district is struggling to manage the growing population in the Albion area.

Director of instruction David Vandergugten noted that the school district ultimately has no say in matters of zoning and no control over where the District of Maple Ridge allows residential development.

The school district has been waiting on the provincial government for more than five years to approve funding for a new elementary school on 102nd Avenue, where the district already owns property.

Complicating matters is the fact that Albion doesn’t have the option of adding more portables, says Vandergugten.

“There’s literally no space left on the property,” he said.

To make matters worse for the school, a high density townhouse development is being built next door, which Vandergugten expects to attract more young families to the area.

Should trustees approve the proposed catchment changes, the Maple Crest subdivision north of 104th Avenue and east of 240th Street would fall into the catchment of Webster’s Corner elementary, located a six-km drive away, instead of Albion elementary, little more than a kilometre.

Kanaka Creek elementary’s catchment will almost be lopped in half, with students north of 112th Avenue now part of Alexander Robinson’s catchment.

Kanaka Creek offers a balanced school calendar, and is meant to be a district-wide option for parents. However, because of development within the school’s catchment area, there is little room for out-of-catchment students.

“We can’t put kids in schools that are full,” Vandergugten said.

Families previously residing in Alexander Robinson’s catchment north of Dewdney Trunk Road, and between 116th and 113th Avenues off 240th Street, will now fall into Blue Mountain elementary’s catchment.

Whonnock elementary’s catchment will also encroach on the Albion neighbourhood, expanding to include the subdivision at the corner of 102nd Avenue and 248th Street, previously located within Albion elementary’s boundary. Families there will have an 8.5 km drive to school every day instead of 2.5 km drive to Albion.

For families with a child in one school who now find themselves in the catchment of another school, their first child will still be allowed to attend the school they are already at. However, siblings yet to enter elementary school will be considered out-of-catchment, and will be prioritized for enrollment behind other students residing within the new boundaries.

That could mean splitting some families up, something trustee Ken Clarkson said he would like to avoid if at all possible.

“In most instances, those people are accommodated,” Clarkson said. “We might grandfather them in … but these things haven’t been decided yet.”

The proposed changes will be brought to trustees at their Jan. 11 meeting.

• For more, vist www.sd42.ca

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