Overcrowding prompts catchment change

Siblings will still be able to go to the same schools

Alexander Robison Elementary School is one of the school affected by the changes.

Alexander Robison Elementary School is one of the school affected by the changes.

Parents in east Maple Ridge will likely have a longer drive to take their children to school after local school trustees voted Wednesday to redraw elementary school catchments in east Maple Ridge in order to alleviate over-crowding there.

The catchment areas for Albion, Alexander Robinson, and Kanaka Creek elementary schools will shrink, while the catchments for Blue Mountain, Webster’s Corners, and Whonnock elementary schools will expand.

Albion, Alexander Robinson, and Kanaka Creek are each currently over capacity, while Webster’s Corner is currently at 64 per cent of capacity, while Blue Mountain is at 71 per cent.

Students already attending elementary schools won’t be affected by the changes.

School district director of instruction Laurie Meston said overcrowding in the schools is creating a safety concern.

“The washrooms are tight, there’s not enough room in the gym … and we’ve maximized portable space, often to the detriment of playground space,” she said.

The catchment changes will also help fill space at underutilized schools, something Meston said helps the school district make the case for a new elementary school in the Albion area.

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.

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

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

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.

One father explained at Wednesday’s school board meeting that the catchment changes would create hardship for him, having to drive in the opposite direction of his commute to drop his children at school.

“We moved just minutes [from Alexander Robinson] with the intention of our kids going to school there,” he told trustees.

“It won’t be perfect,” said trustee Dave Rempel. “But it reflects what’s needed to address our space problem.”

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.

The district will be offering a school bus service to take students living in the old Albion and Alexander Robinson catchments to their new schools.

The changes will also see any new subdivisions yet to be built within the Alexander Robinson and Albion catchments placed into the catchment areas of other schools. Families who buy a new home, even mere metres away from either school, will be ineligible to register their children there.

Trustee Susan Carr recommended the district contact realtors in the area to inform them of the catchment situation so they could give families moving into the area accurate information.

“People moving in to this neighbourhood also need to do their due diligence,” she said. “You can’t buy a house there and assume you’ll be able to send your kids to the school down the street.”

Trustees also voted to alter the French immersion catchment areas, expanding Laity View’s catchment to cover most of west Maple Ridge, now serving an area previously served by Eric Langton elementary.

Meston said many parents in east Maple Ridge have increasingly opted to send their children to the French immersion program at Eric Langton, reducing space at that school, while the program at Laity View is under-utilized.

Trustees voted in favour of a staff recommendation giving enrollment priority to students displaced by the catchment changes who have siblings attending Albion, Alexander Robinson, Kanaka Creek, and Eric Langton.

The grandfathering clause will ensure more than 30 students over the next five years will be able to attend school with their brothers and sisters.

Carr aid parents have a role to play in ensuring funding for a new elementary school comes sooner, rather than later.

“We need to keep this conversation going on in the public,” she said. “We don’t want to have to keep doing this.”

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