The new NWSS won't be opening in September after all - and you can blame COVID-19

For New Westminster students, this could well be the biggest pandemic-related disappointment so far.

The long-awaited replacement for New Westminster Secondary School won’t be ready to open in September after all, thanks to COVID-19 disruptions.

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The New Westminster school district just announced the news in a letter to parents, students, staff and community members.

“As we all know, the COVID-19 outbreak has had significant impacts on almost all of the operations and work we do as a school district – from the cancellation of events to the suspension of in-class instruction,” superintendent Karim Hachlaf said in the letter. “We have had to change the way we fundamentally do business.”

Hachlaf’s letter said the COVID-19 outbreak presented two challenges that have slowed down the progress on the NWSS construction project: the number of workers that can safely be on site each day, and supply chain issues caused by factory shutdowns and work stoppages at other businesses.

“Earlier in the year, there was anywhere around 250 people working at one time,” Hachlaf told the Record. “As the COVID situation evolved, and various waves of recommendations from the health authorities were phased in, the average number of workers engaged daily dropped down to around 130 people, with some days and weeks much lower than that.”

Hachlaf also told the Record the supply chain issues have included both international product suppliers and local companies.

“In the finishing stage that we’re in, that means we’ve run into challenges around things like getting the whiteboard vinyl applications for classroom walls and sometimes struggled just being able to get companies to deliver supplies to our site,” he said. “We continue to closely monitor these issues as they change daily.”

Hachlaf said the school district is working closely with the builder, Graham Construction, to monitor the situation while crews continue with whatever work can be done through this “limbo” period. He noted new health and safety protocols have been introduced to continue to make sure anyone working on the site is doing so safely.

The district doesn’t yet know when the new school will be move-in ready.

“At this point, nobody knows the duration of time we’ll continue to face COVID-19-related restrictions and challenges,” Hachlaf said in his letter, noting it’s too soon to accurately reassess what the adjusted completion timelines may be.

He told the Record that the district is disappointed by the news.

“This is as disappointing for all of us as it was unavoidable, given the unprecedented factors we’re all facing. We’ll continue to do what we can for now, and we look forward to an opportunity when we can properly reassess this exciting investment in our students and community,” he said.

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