Buying enough land to accommodate a new school can be a challenge in a fast-growing, geographically restricted city like New Westminster.
The New Westminster school district is asking the province for $50 million to address that problem as it revises its capital plan requests for 2022/23.
In June, the school board approved a capital plan request totalling $201 million. Over the summer, however, the district engaged a consultant to update its long-range facilities plan, and the school district undertook work with the city to identify potential future school sites.
Bettina Ketcham, the school district’s secretary-treasurer, noted the district previously updated its long-range facilities plan in 2019, but New Westminster is changing rapidly.
“We can certainly see that rapid pace of development certainly taking off, and that has resulted in enrolment forecasts going up steadily and quite quickly,” she said at the Sept. 28 board meeting.
The school board has approved new capital planning request to the B.C. Ministry of Education – this one for $222.6 million.
A big chunk of that money is being allocated to site acquisition. The district is looking for $25 million apiece for two new school sites: one for a new middle school in the Fraser River zone and one in Queensborough, to allow for an expansion of the existing middle school and to accommodate its growing secondary school-aged population.
It’s also spelling out the need for a third site – this one in the Hume Park area, to accommodate new school construction once the coming Sapperton Green development is well underway. Because the timeline for the project is still being defined, the school district is using a “placeholder” value of $1.
NEW ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE SCHOOLS IN THE PLAN
Another $105.7 million is being earmarked for new school construction.
Top priority for the school district is a new elementary school in the Fraser River zone (the central part of the city), to create space for approximately 500 kindergarten-to-Grade 5 students in the city’s fastest-growing neighbourhood. That price tag comes in at $47.6 million.
It’s also looking for $58.1 million to build a second middle school in the Fraser River zone. That request replaces the district’s original plan, which was to add an expansion at the existing Fraser River Middle School.
Ketcham said revised enrolment forecasts for the middle school mean the district is dropping the idea of an expansion and “going full-tilt” for a new school instead.
Also included in the new capital plan request:
- Queensborough Middle School addition: $35 million
- Hume Park elementary school site: $31.4 million for future new school, to accommodate the coming Sapperton Green development
- Hume Park building: $509,000 for seismic upgrades to the existing school (which currently houses the Home Learners’ Program)
The issue of future school planning will be discussed in more depth when the updated long-range facilities plan returns to the board for approval later this month.