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School plans could be ready soon

Plans for New Westminster's capital project involving three new schools should be ready before the end of the month, but they may come in stages, according to school board chair Michael Ewen.

Plans for New Westminster's capital project involving three new schools should be ready before the end of the month, but they may come in stages, according to school board chair Michael Ewen.

The education ministry is waiting for the school district to submit proposals for three new schools: a replacement for New Westminster Secondary, a new middle school to take on some of the NWSS students, and a replacement school for John Robson Elementary.

Ewen told The Record those plans should be ready soon, but there may be some changes.

"There are three school proposals. Originally, we had agreed we were going to treat all three school projects as one project and move it all forward together. Right now we're thinking that probably isn't the best decision, and we are looking at what we call decoupling," Ewen said. "The board hasn't made a final decision, but that's what we are looking at. We think we can move the projects forward faster if we actually decouple them."

Ewen thinks the school board will decide to put proposals for the elementary and middle school forward to the education ministry first, and the high school later, but the board hasn't made a final decision yet.

"The rationale there is we need to build a high school for (fewer) students because we are going to be taking students out of the high school. If we build the high school first, we have to spend a million or two million on portables," Ewen said. That's why the middle school needs to be built first - to house some of the students that would normally be at NWSS, he explained. The middle school is going to be built where John Robson Elementary is now, so that elementary school needs to be torn down and rebuilt at a third site - the old Saint Mary's Hospital site.

"We need to build the elementary first, then the middle school. I think both of these need to be done at the same time," Ewen said.

Decoupling the school proposals doesn't mean there will be a delay in building the new high school, because that's expected to start in three or four years anyways, Ewen pointed out.

Ewen couldn't say when, exactly, the proposal for the high school would be submitted for ministry approval since the school trustees have decided nothing yet.

Paul Johansen, vicechair of the district parents' advisory council, was frustrated with the decade of delays.

"There's no way there are any shovels going in the ground this fall," he said. "Michael Ewen has been telling people, that (he is optimistic) we are going to break ground in October, but that's not true."

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