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Hume Park parents face school's demise again

Parents and students at Hume Park school were planning to build a community garden to symbolize its future growth. But with the New Westminster school district considering closing the school
Parents and students at Hume Park school were planning to build a community garden to symbolize its future growth. But with the New Westminster school district considering closing the school's regular classes, Crystal Smith, the president of the Parents Advisory Council, and her children Kyson and Aayla are wondering whether the effort is worth it.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Crystal Smith hoped to plant a community garden at Hume Park school to symbolize its future growth.

With the little school's future in doubt, the garden plans have wilted even before a shovel had a chance to pierce the soil.

It's not the first time Hume Park has faced closure. But, fears Smith, this could be the last.

The New Westminster school district is wrestling with a $2.69 million shortfall in its budget and superintendent John Gaiptman has said "everything is on the table."

That includes shutting the doors to regular classes at Hume Park for good. The district's Homelearners' program, which is also based at the school, wouldn't be affected.

That program was moved to the school to take advantage of surplus space. Ironically, one of the regular classrooms is now in a portable. There are 23 students attending the school this year, and fewer are forecast for next year.

Smith's daughter, Aayla, is in Grade Two at Hume Park. Her son, Kyson, is set to go there in September.

But none of that is certain now that the school district has initiated a 45-day consultation process to determine if it should keep the school open.

Smith said parents haven't been given enough time to implement their plan to attract more students. The community garden was supposed to be the launch of their plan.

"We wanted to build a garden so we can show we're alive, we can thrive" said Smith, the president of the the school's Parents Advisory Council. "Everyone was so optimistic."

In 2012 the school district gave Hume Park parents a reprieve from the school being closed then with a five-year stay to get enrolment numbers up.

But, said Smith, the small group of parents expended so much energy trying to save the school, they're just getting started on recruitment. They had an information table at last summer's Sapperton Days festival and had gathered items from local merchants for a planned silent auction to help fund the community garden.

"We weren't even given a year to set out to do what we wanted to do," said Smith.

Instead of a nearly-empty school with only two classes of students covering six grades, Smith said she sees valuable space that will allow the school to grow when new development like nearby Sapperton Green brings new residents.

"Every other school seems to have packed classrooms, but we have room to grow," said Smith.

New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright expressed a similar sentiment at a recent council meeting.

"If they put the amount of people in Sapperton Green we're expecting, then we're going to need that little piece of property and the school," said Wright. "The population base is growing. We have to be prepared."

Smith said the school offers kids a unique experience.

"It's harmonious," said Smith. "That's crucial to parents who are worried about bullying and overcrowded classrooms."

Gaiptman cited the educational challenges of teaching six grades to two classrooms worth of students as one of the reasons for closing the school.

"I don't even know how we can save it," said Smith. "I've no wind in my sails. It breaks my heart."

 

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