A new 600-student elementary school will be sharing campus space with Fraser River Middle School and a separate alternate program building, if a concept plan from the New Westminster school district comes to pass.
School District 40 revealed its plans for a much-talked-about new elementary school at Tuesday night’s board meeting (Sept. 27), the first meeting of the 2022/23 school year.
If it goes ahead as planned, the new school will be located on district-owned land next to Fraser River Middle School on the Queens Avenue side, using Simcoe Park to provide greenspace for both schools.
The new kindergarten-to-Grade 5 elementary school will use a three-storey, “urban-style design,” secretary-treasurer Bettina Ketcham said.
In March of this year, the B.C. Ministry of Education gave the district the green light to work on a concept plan for the new school.
The new school tops the district’s capital funding wish list, since the two other schools in the area — École Qayqayt Elementary School, in the downtown, and Lord Kelvin Elementary School, near Moody Park — are both operating well past capacity. Qayqayt, in fact, is so crowded that the district is eyeing a lottery for kindergarten registration in future years.
Though the ministry has not approved any funding for the new school, Ketcham said approval of the concept plan process is a “strong signal” from government that they recognize the need for it.
Alternate education programs would share new campus
Originally, the district had asked for funding for a 500-student elementary school — but, given the rapid growth in the city, Ketcham said they’re now planning for 600 students instead.
The district is also planning for construction of a separate building for its alternate education programs, which are currently housed in leased space at Columbia Square. That new, purpose-built space would go up next to the school district offices, which are located on the same property, fronting Ontario Street.
“The concept plan is still in draft stages, but we are confident in our recommendations,” Ketcham said.
Once the concept plan is approved, the district must move to the second stage of its business case, known as the “project definition report.” If all goes well there, Ketcham said, the district would anticipate a funding announcement sometime next year.