Minister says NWSS is top priority in B.C.

B.C.’s education minister can’t say when exactly funding for the New Westminster Secondary School replacement project will be approved, but it is the number 1 priority for the ministry.

Education Minister Mike Bernier spoke with the Record Monday.

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Bernier responded to a letter sent by trustee Jonina Campbell on behalf of the school board in February. In his response, Bernier reaffirms the ministry’s support of the project getting final approval and says he “is hopeful this can occur within the coming weeks.”

When asked to provide a specific timeline, Bernier said he could not.

“I’m not deliberately being vague when I say the ‘coming weeks.’ It’s just it’s now at the final decision point, … which is out of my control. So that’s why I can’t be more specific,” he told the Record.

Because of the complex nature of the project, it’s quickly become the largest investment in education the province has ever made, Bernier said, adding the new high school will likely cost more than $100 million to build.

“I think what a lot of people hopefully will realize is that this is going to be basically the largest school in the province. It’s also the largest investment the government has ever made in education for a single project,” Bernier said.

Bernier applauded the New West school district for its work on the project, adding that as much as it’s out of his hands now, it’s also out of their hands as well.

“They’ve done their work, and I have signed off on it. It is the number 1 priority right now in the Ministry of Education’s office right now, as far as the next capital project to go forward,” he said. “Now it’s at the final stage of approval.”

The government is now going over the project with a fine tooth comb to make sure it’s the best option for the district and the business case is sound. Bernier said the government needs to be cautious, especially when spending taxpayers’ money on a project of this magnitude.

“It’s really just the last step. We always go through all these steps to make sure we’ve looked at every option. Is this the best option? Is the business case sound? So there’s all these different steps to go through to ensure that we’re spending taxpayers’ money properly. This one here, obviously, jumps right to the top,” he added.

Bernier was hopeful he could make the announcement sooner rather than later and finally give the staff and students a school they can be proud of.

“The number 1 thing out there is to have a good school out there for the students to learn in, and one they can be proud of,” he said, adding he was impressed to hear parents were planning a rally on the issue this weekend, demonstrating their passion to their children.

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