New High School Announced for Willoughby

This article, New $55 million high school announced for Willoughby slope, was originally published in Langley Times on Sept 16, 2016.

The Willoughby slope will get a new high school.

Langley MLAs Mary Polak and Rich Coleman, joined by members of the Langley board of education school district staff, teachers, parents and students, made the announcement at R.E. Mountain Secondary school on Friday afternoon.

In addition to the new $55.2 million secondary school, which will be built adjacent to the existing R.E. Mountain school and have a capacity of 1,500 students, RC Garnett Elementary School, which opened in 2007, will be expanded to hold an additional 200 students. That upgrade is expected to cost $4.7 million.

Another $7.2 million has been earmarked to acquire land for a new elementary school in northeast Latimer.

Finally, the province announced that once the new high school is open in Willoughby, R.E. Mountain Secondary will be converted to a middle school, for students in Grades 6-8.

“Today is a really big day for students and families in the Willoughby Slope area,” said MLA Polak.

“We all know this is a really vibrant part of our community, and I know, I live in Willoughby, and the growth has just been tremendous. That growth is great to see lots of young families wanting to come and live in Langley, but it brings its own pressures, as you all know. All you have to do is walk to the portables everyday and you know exactly what we are talking about.”

R.E. Mountain is currently operating at 138 per cent capacity and using 16 portables.

The new secondary school will be more than double the size of R.E. Mountain Middle school, which will alleviate this pressure and get students out of portables and into classrooms, said the province.

Total cost of the projects is expected to be $67.1 million.

“I know it’s an important announcement for the district, the families, the people who are looking to buy here in the community right here in the Willoughby slopes,” said MLA Coleman.

“It’s a great place to put a high school when it’s so close to things like the Events Centre, the tennis courts, the ball fields and all of the things that are here. And classroom space is so … important to our community needs.”

Coleman said that when he first became an MLA in 1996, they were contemplating closing down R.E. Mountain Secondary due to dwindling enrolment.

“Today, obviously we know, it is bursting at the seams. A lot of things happen in less than 20 years in demographics in a jurisdiction,” he said.

According to the province, the Willoughby Slope area has the largest portion of undeveloped land in the Lower Mainland.

Township records indicate that between the months of January and April, 2016, 71 per cent of all construction in the Township occurred in Willoughby, equating to 368 new residential units.

In the last 10 years, enrolment in the Willoughby Slope area has increased by nine per cent, and is forecasted to grow by over 40 per cent in the next 10 years.

“These (announcements) are very, very significant steps as the school district’s effort to address the needs — the desperate needs — for student space on the Willoughby slope,” said Rob McFarlane, chair of the Langley Board of Education.

“And (this is) all the more significant when you combine it with June’s announcement about the partial reconstruction of Langley Secondary School, in 2014 opening the middle school Yorkson Creek, in 2013 opening Richard Bulpitt Elementary (and) in 2012 opening Lynn Fripps Elementary. And combined, we’ve covered off an awful lot of the capital needs of the district in a relatively short period of time. And we are very grateful for the progress that we’ve made there.”

Design work is expected to start this fall on the new secondary school, and construction is expected to start this winter for the expansion at R.C. Garnett Elementary.

Justin Mitchell

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