The New Westminster Home Learners Program won’t be moving out of Hume Park after all.
Two weeks ago, a staff report came to the school board’s operations committee suggesting the program could be moved from its headquarters at the former Hume Park elementary school to the grounds of Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School in the West End.
The proposal came as the district is pondering the future of its alternate secondary school programs, RCAP and POWER, which currently serve students out of leased space at Columbia Square Plaza downtown. Staff had suggested the possibility of moving those programs into the Hume Park space and shifting the Home Learners out.
But, after an outcry from parents and virtual townhalls with both school communities, trustees put the brakes on that idea.
After a lengthy discussion at their Jan. 26 school board meeting, trustees agreed to keep both programs where they are – with an eye to finding a more permanent home for the RCAP and POWER programs within the next two years.
Hume Park location is a 'jewel'
Trustees noted the level of support shown by Home Learners parents for the program in its current location.
“It’s clear the Home Learners program is cherished by participants for the teaching and learning practices that live there, the close relationship it nurtures, as well as the physical building and its proximity to Hume Park,” said trustee Mark Gifford.
Though Gifford expressed some concerns over the tone of some email correspondence and social media commentary about the proposed move – saying it felt like “entitlement” and that it “insulted” the school district and other public school students and families – he agreed the program works in its current setting.
“The program is a gem, and it’s set in a jewel of a location,” he said.
Trustee Mary Lalji also spoke up in favour of keeping the program in Hume Park.
“The current set of learners have an established level of comfort, familiarity, access to a variety of learning options and opportunities, and a site which provides the setting for exceptional learning support structures,” she said. “In this, this will change if the HLP population of learners are migrated to portables adjacent to Tweedsmuir school.”
Board chair Gurveen Dhaliwal said the proposal to move the programs has been “an exercise in the importance of public consultation.”
She cautioned that, while it’s clear there’s no desire – from the board or the families – to move the Home Learners Program at this point, the Hume Park site isn’t a forever home.
The school district has future plans to use the land, plus the 0.4-acre property at 522 Fader St., across the street (which it bought in 2019) for a future Sapperton middle school.
“This isn’t a conversation that we need to start having right now, but we do know that Hume will be the home to a middle school in roughly 10 years, and we need to make sure we are having those conversations early on and are appropriately prepared to deal with the future of the Home Learners Program as well,” Dhaliwal said.