November 1, 2018 – Queensborough Traffic Safety Issues/Crosswalk on Salter

As I enter my second term as School Board Trustee, I want to ensure I am as open and transparent as possible around the work I am doing for the students, parents and teachers in New Westminster.

Too often, complex issues or work being done behind the scenes are not fully explained in the media or in the board minutes. As the only independent Trustee, it’s even more important for me to communicate directly. I am hoping to provide you with context and information around the work I am doing as your school board trustee.

In recent days, there has been some conversation on social media around student safety, specifically the lack of crossing guards in front of both schools in Queensborough on Salter.

To clarify, there are also no crosswalks on Salter and therefore where would the district crossing guard be placed.

Creating a crosswalk in this area must be undertaken by the City’s engineering department.

The Queensborough Residents Association have been working on this issue since 2015. It is one of the main safety concerns for students in the area.

I was hoping to get some some insight and real discussions for solution based resolution at the final School Board Meeting on October 30 since that group had the background and knowledge on this issue the last few years. If would have given the new board a head start on theses safety issues and my hope is action would be prompt. Unfortunately, it has been deferred to the first meeting of the new Board of Trustees with no discussion or insight from the previous year’s Board.

I am hopeful my new colleagues on the Board are as committed to moving this initiative forward as soon as possible. We know what’s needed, it’s just a matter of the right people to come around the table and make it happen.

This is the motion I put forward:
Queensborough: two schools
— Queen Elizabeth Elementary School  student enrolment: 439

— Queensborough Middle School  student enrolment: 319

Traffic Safety Issues: For years, concern has been expressed about student safety walking to-and-from schools.  These concerns have been discussed at Parent Advisory Council meetings, at the Queensborough Residents’ Association, at the New Westminster City Traffic Committee, etc.  In fact in 2015, a representative from City Engineering assessed and confirmed the validity of the Queensborough concerns.

The on-going development in Queensborough, as outlined in the City’s Official Community Plan, means that these existing concerns are only going to intensify.  As an out-going Board of Education, we have a responsibility to ensure that these concerns are among the priorities that the incoming Board of Education will address.

To improve and ensure safe-access to our schools, to be responsive to long-standing expressions of community concern, and to involve all relevant stakeholder groups to build partnerships and trust, I move that the Board of Education of School District 40(New Westminster ) approve the formation of a Task Force that, at minimum, would include:

*Queen Elizabeth Elementary School PAC President
*Queensborough Middle School PAC President
*one School Trustee
*one City Councillor
*one NWPD representative
*one City Engineering representative

… and any other stakeholder deemed relevant to the process

To address the safety of all pedestrians, especially our school-age youth, and improve road conditions and signage for cyclists and motorists as well, the objective of the Task Force would include but not be limited to:

1) the creation of two fully lighted crosswalks on Ewen Avenue (where the students currently cross)
2) the assignment of a crossing guard at the newly created crosswalks at QE and QBM

October 22, 2018

I am really gratified to be elected as an independent in a heavily dominated Labour Council endorsed Board. To me it means there is a real appetite from the voters for a new perspective to round out some challenging priorities facing SD40.

There are a number of priorities I continue to be focused on such as music programs in our schools, transparency with the new New Westminster Secondary School and establishing a Queensborough bus program for students travelling to NWSS. I know how big these aspirations were. I am pleased to say we are seeing progress.

Music in our Schools:  I consulted with various schools around their existing musical programs and was surprised to learn there was no music program at all at the Queensborough middle school.

What came out was a win for the students and residents in New Westminster. With their newly funded part-time band teacher, the school was able to offer a band program to students. The student band performed its first concert in 2017. We know from research, students who participate in extra-curricular activities are more likely to stay in school, so it was wonderful to see there was so much excitement and interest in the music program.

The New High School: The announcement for a new $106.5M state-of-the-art NWSS was met with much excitement.  I committed to doing everything in my power as a trustee to keep the project as transparent and as accountable as possible.

Through the provincial government, Partnerships BC was appointed to manage the community consultation process. Two community consultations were held in November – December 2016 and February-March 2018.  The following priority areas were discussed:

  • Timeline (which is currently set for September 2020)
  • Design elements
  • Outdoor spaces
  • Pedestrian and cyclist access and amenities
  • Student pick-up and drop-off areas.

Click here for ongoing updates on construction.

I will continue to work for more resources to be allocated to extra-curricular programs, additional space for the physical education program, and reinstating the program for international students (funding from this program was used for school programs and initiatives.)

Queensborough Bus System:  I heard from many students and parents in the Queensborough area, and the need for a dedicated bus system for students there commuting to NWSS is vital.

I put forward a motion to survey the parents and two surveys were sent out (online). The survey taught us parents wanted the service, but it has to be affordable. I was glad to see the process inspired many parents to start their own petition to the School Board with specifics around the bus system they would like to see. I hope to work with my fellow trustees to create a viable solution for this growing part of our city.

As I became more immersed in the intricacies of being part of the Board, I gained a better understanding of what the needs and concerns are from our parents and students. I believe we are here to serve them and their voice is the most important one at the table.

They tell me:

Our schools are overcrowded. Overcrowding in Queensborough schools in particular have long been unviable. In elementary schools, almost half of students are in portables. We have portables on school sites with no washrooms. And, there are some strong sentiments around adequate green space for students with new housing developments in the area.

Kids taking part in extra-curricular activities stay in school. New Westminster has had some strong programs in the past and I would like to see us re-evaluate resources dedicated to music, arts and athletics programs at every school level.  Promoting a full educational experience for students that not only includes the classroom but also extra-curricular activities that are accessible to all students. The Hyack Football program has been a tremendous success at providing engagement and a complete educational experience for all involved, at very little financial cost to the school district. Similar models need to be created in other extra-curricular programs within SD40.

Teachers need more resources. Our classrooms are growing, our student demographics are changing, we need to listen and respond to our teachers. They are the front line leaders to a diverse and complex group of students and we need to give them what is required to succeed especially now when we are implementing BC’s New Curriculum.

Give our students a voice. I have long supported having a student attend our Board Meetings as a student trustee. We can’t legitimately say we are working to help our students if we aren’t giving them a seat at the table.

Success comes from many perspectives and voices especially when we have to find creative solutions for challenges we face. The most important thing is we share a common goal: the current students and future students of New Westminster.