SD42 puts schools in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows under microscope

Facility review is meant to give the district a better idea of what resources it has available, and how to better manage them

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district is putting its schools under a microscope to find ways to best utilize available classroom space.

That could mean daycares renting space in unused elementary school classrooms could be forced to move for the 2012/13 school year.

Superintendent Jan Unwin said the facility review is meant to give the district a better idea of what resources it has available, and how to better manage them.

“We know that we have space, we just need to know where that space is, and how best to use it,” Unwin said.

“We’re trying to stay in front of any issues that we may have. We want to be proactive, not reactive.”

Unwin said while there is no significant space issues at the secondary school level, elementary enrollment numbers are stabilizing and could be back on the upswing in years to come.

Any non-school use of classroom space is being assessed to make sure it is not taking space away from students.

“There could be a daycare or two that may have to move … if we find the kids need that classroom,” she said.

One thing Unwin said is not on the agenda are further school closures.

Thanks to the province’s StrongStart early childhood education program and the introduction of all-day kindergarten, the district’s elementary schools are no longer in the same kind of enrollment crisis as Mt. Crescent and Riverside elementary were.

While all non-school uses of classrooms are being looked at as part of the review, Unwin said there is currently no plan to move the HIVE Neighbourhood Centre from Eric Langton Elementary, despite concerns to the contrary.

The HIVE is located in two classrooms at the school, and delivers a wide variety of community programs such as an after-school kids club, a healthy babies program, pre-school, and much more.

However, increases in enrollment at the school resulted in a class having to be housed in a portable for this school year, while the HIVE remained in the school.

Unwin said the classrooms the HIVE is housed in were too small to accommodate the class, and the class’s teacher preferred to be housed in the much larger portable.

Part of the reason for the increase in students at Eric Langton has been a spike in French immersion students across the district. Unwin said typically 12 per cent of incoming kindergarten students choose French immersion, while this year that number was 17 per cent.

“We think that may be an anomaly, but we have to keep an eye on it to make sure,” she said.

She added the district has no current plans to expand its elementary French immersion program to other schools.

The district is also currently reviewing its catchment boundaries to find ways to best distribute students at elementary schools. While many schools in the western part of the district have empty classrooms, schools in east Maple Ridge are over capacity.

Because the district allows students to attend the school of their choice, redistributing students isn’t so easy.

“Overall, 40 to 50 per cent of students attend out of catchment schools,” Unwin said. “[Having open school boundaries] does bring a lot of issues, but its very important to parents and it helps us engage students in learning.”

Unwin added that catchment boundary changes would only apply to incoming students.

“If you’re already at a school, you’re in, you’ll stay,” she said.

The findings of the district’s facility review will be brought before the Board of Education at their Nov. 30 meeting.

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