A Silver Valley resident is questioning the board of education’s rationale for giving up a school site.
Maple Ridge council will consider an amendment to the Official Community Plan later this year to remove the school site designation at 23103 136th Ave. after the board of education said it didn’t need all four sites in the Silver Valley area.
Nicole Read asked the board of education last week to consider keeping the site for a school, because it is in walking distance to the surrounding area, and in order to keep the neighbourhood safe for kids going to school.
Read said when the board has cited a lack of funding from the Ministry of Education as the reason for not buying the site, it is a “boring and tired position.”
Not enough analysis has been done of the number of children that will need a school in the area, she said.
“School district 42 has made a decision that is inconsistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP) and they have done so without public consultation and with limited consultation of District planning staff,” Read said in her presentation to the board.
Within just a few weeks since the Silver Valley resident found out Maple Ridge council would be considering removing the school site designation, an online petition has attracted 400 names, she’s been knocking on doors, and meeting with councillors and the school board.
Read calls the move to remove the designation a “significant amendment” of the OCP and she would like the removal of the designation to be deferred at least until a facilities study is done – which the school district plans to do this year – or there is a full consultation with Silver Valley residents.
The study that was done was “rudimentary,” Read added.
The Silver Valley plan, which was incorporated into the OCP, was built on the assumption of those hamlets, Read said, and the schools and parks are co-located for a reason.
The school district has indicated that two school sites are extraneous in Silver Valley, because the demographics are not what were predicted for the area.
If some of the school sites need to be removed from the community plan, Read would like a discussion about which two should remain – not just the removal of one of them before such a discussion takes place.
“It’s mayor and council’s responsibility as the driver of the OCP… to put the process on hold,” Read said.
Read would like to defer first reading and wait for the school district to complete its facilities review, buy the land, or engage the community in replanning Silver Valley.
Read has lived in Silver Valley for two and a half years, and has a son at Yennadon Elementary and a two-year-old.
While she understands that a school may not be built in time for her children, her family did buy in the neighbourhood based on a school coming.
Read said she has hope that if an NDP forms government in the May election, they would push for smaller, community schools.
“[Removing the school site] also takes away from the value of my home,” Read said. “We bought here based on the Silver Valley plan,” adding that people were sold into the area based on the OCP.
The school district hired a consultant to look at the situation in Silver Valley after they were approached by the District of Maple Ridge, asking for a definitive answer whether the school site would be bought or not, said school board chair Mike Murray.
Based on current numbers in Silver Valley, the school district estimated there would be about 1,245 children needing a school when the area is fully built.
The information was used as a baseline, Murray said.
Since some students are served by Yennadon Elementary, the consultant’s report showed only two more schools would be needed in the area.
Acquisition of the Blaney hamlet school site in Silver Valley is ranked as priority #16 in the school district’s five-year capital plan.
In a document about the Silver Valley issue published last week, the school district would need to prove to the Ministry of Education that the Blaney Hamlet site is the top priority.
The document states that “it is unlikely that the school district would be able to meet this burden of proof,” especially as high priority projects like a new school in Albion are still not funded by the ministry.
Murary pointed out that several schools near Silver Valley, like Yennadon, Harry Hooge, Golden Ears, and Alouette, all have space in them.
“Regardless of the [Blaney] site, it would be a good many years before we get a school is Silver Valley,” he said.