Three new schools being considered for New West

New Westminster may get three new schools – and Queensborough Middle School may get an expansion – with plans made for 2041.

On Tuesday night, the New Westminster Board of Education’s operations policy and planning committee recommended the board move forward with the specific long-range plans. In a 5-1 vote, the committee made the decision to recommend Option 2 of six options from the Long-Range Facilities Review.

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“These plans are long-term. We’re trying to anticipate where the district’s going to be in 2041 from a student involvement standpoint and where in the district that’s going to be, and use the best available data we’ve got to understand that or project that, and make a decision based on that,” said Mark Gifford, chair of the school board and a member of the committee.

“Option 2 was seen as the best available option we have to meet that long-term growth. It doesn’t mean that a plan won’t adapt over time,” he said, adding the B.C. Ministry of Education has given the school board a little more planning flexibility.

Option 2 included one new elementary school, one new middle school and another school, with the configuration yet to be determined (though the report assumed it would be a middle school), as well as the expansion of Queensborough Middle School.

It would mean an additional 500 elementary school seats and 965 middle school seats for New Westminster, according to a staff report.

“Looking at what we have in terms of building and site constraints right now, a few of the options just didn’t work – the sites that we have just wouldn’t handle the options,” Gifford said. “One of the options, the grade configurations would impact all of our schools. It would create such a degree of disruption in the district that it just didn’t make sense.”

The committee also considered a junior high school option, but it would require a lot of reconfiguring of grades and cause issues with educational programming, he added.

“Our best fit is this Option 2 – maintain the configuration, this elementary and middle school model – and build off of that,” Gifford said.

The long-range planning is just that, with current priorities such as Queen Elizabeth Elementary still in place, Gifford clarified in an email to the Record.

“Option 2 aligns with our top priorities: first, ministry approval of a 285-seat expansion at Queen Elizabeth Elementary; and second, a new elementary school in the Fraser River catchment,” he wrote. “Longer term, we see future middle/elementary expansion in Glenbrook (which includes Sapperton) and Fraser catchments.  This will help us both accommodate future enrolment increases and reduce the number of portables within the district.”

Enrolment at schools in New Westminster was at 6,497 in 2018 and is expected to reach 8,238 by 2041, according to enrolment projections provided by Cascades Facilities Management Ltd. The projections don’t include the alternate program at New Westminster Secondary School or international student enrolment.

The majority of New Westminster schools are near or at capacity, with École Lord Tweedsmuir and F.W. Howay elementary schools being the exceptions.

As things stand, even with construction projects at New Westminster Secondary School and Richard McBride Elementary School approved and the possible project at Queen Elizabeth Elementary School, district enrolment capacity utilization is expected to rise to 103 per cent in 2026 and 118 per cent in 2041

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