What’s happening at the New Westminster school board meeting this week?

The New Westminster board of education is holding its monthly open board meeting this Tuesday at the school board office.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. and there are a number of items of interest on the agenda this month. Here are a few things to watch for:

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Five-year plan

Tuesday’s meeting has a few in-camera items on the agenda that are being reported out (this means these previously private items will now be put on the public record).

Most interesting of them all is an amended 2019-20 five-year capital plan.

In September, the Record reported on the district’s latest capital plan, which had an expansion for Queen Elizabeth Elementary School at the top of the wish list. The proposed addition would include 12 new classrooms, a new gymnasium and some neighbourhood learning centre space.

Second on the list of priorities is a new elementary school for the Fraser River catchment. If approved by the Ministry of Education, this project would cost $50 million ($25 million in 2019-20 to buy the land and $25 million in 2020-21 to build the school).

Now the New Westminster school district is asking for money to build a new elementary or middle school in the Sapperton catchment area, and it’s asking for $2 million in 2019-20 to get started. This new Sapperton school is part of the district’s 11- to 20-year long range facilities plan.

(Click here to see the amendment to the five-year capital plan.)

Committee and liaison assignments

The trustees will be going over the assignments for the many school board and district committees that need representation. This includes the chair position for both the education and operations committees, and representatives for the Aboriginal education advisory committee, the CUPE/labour management and grievance management (stage 3) committees, memorialization advisory committee, sanctuary schools committee and SOGI committee.

Trustees will also be given their school and/or program assignments. This includes all elementary and middle schools, the high school and alternate programs like SIGMA, POWER, RCAP, Hume Park home learners and Island Discovery home learners.

2019-20 budget process

At the Nov. 13 education operations policy and planning committee meeting, secretary-treasurer Kim Morris presented trustees with the proposed budget process for 2019-20.

This week, trustees will be asked to approve the process as outlined so Morris can get started.

This is the first time the school district has presented a detailed breakdown of the process, which includes a number of opportunities for public engagement including two public events – a student symposium and talking table dinner, both tentatively planned for February.

If all goes as planned, the first reading of the draft budget will take place in March. Trustees are expected to pass the budget by the end of April, and then Morris will submit it to the Ministry of Education no later than the June 30 deadline.

(To see a copy of the proposed budget process click here.)

Unfinished business

Traffic safety around Queensborough is back on the agenda this week.

Trustees at the Nov. 13 meeting spent an hour discussing the issue, trying to come up with a solution to concerns raised by parents at the middle and elementary schools.

Trustee Mary Lalji wanted the district to strike a task force and push the city to install pedestrian crossings and crosswalks on Salter Street.

But her fellow trustees felt that a task force wasn’t the right way to bring about change. Instead, they asked superintendent Karim Hachlaf to reach out to the city to see how the school district could fix the problems around the schools.

Trustees will officially pass this motion Tuesday night, giving Hachlaf until Dec. 4 to report back to the board.

A second issue that was brought forward at the Nov. 13 meeting was a lack of required courses being offered at the high school.

Grade 12 New Westminster Secondary School student Kate Haberl addressed trustees and staff at the meeting, explaining that she, and many of her friends, have had to go outside the district for courses they need to get into post-secondary school.

Haberl said that the number of online or out-of-district courses she has had to take has increased over the past few years.

This was the first time trustees and staff heard about this issue, and while Lalji, who presented a motion on this issue, hoped the district could resolve it immediately, the other trustees argued more time was needed to get to the bottom of the problem.

And so, in the end, trustees directed staff to report back on the issue and outline the “extent of the shortage of required courses of post-secondary education eligibility and make any changes as needed so that New Westminster Secondary School students can meet their graduation requirements by taking NWSS courses.”

Because this was a pressing issue, it’s expected that staff will have something to report back to the board either Tuesday night or at the next committee meeting, planned for Dec. 4.

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For more on these items and other school board news, follow me on Twitter @cayleydobie. I’ll be tweeting live from the meeting, too.

The board meeting (as well as all committee meetings) are open to the public. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the board office, 811 Ontario St. Click here for more information about the upcoming meeting.

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