[UPDATE] New Westminster's Richard McBride Elementary School to be replaced

It was an emotional day for parents at Richard McBride Elementary School.

Education Minister Rob Fleming was at the school to announce that the 89-year-old school would be replaced by a brand new, $22.6-million school, set to open January 2021.

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“It’s about time,” said Jen Arbo, vice-chair of the McBride parent advisory council (PAC).

Arbo, along with the entire McBride PAC, have been advocating for a new Richard McBride for several years. The school was built in 1929 after a fire destroyed the original school. It has the highest seismic rating – H1 – meaning in the event of an earthquake it has the highest risk of widespread damage or structural failure. It would be irreparable after such a disaster.

“We know if an earthquake hits, our students and our school communities have to be safe and I know that McBride and the New Westminster school district had, for a long time, been asking me for the attention of the provincial government to make this building safe,” Fleming announced to parents, staff and students gathered at McBride Friday morning.

“It’s exciting, it’s overdue,” Arbo said after the announcement. “I think it’s really nice to feel heard as a parent and a community."

Arbo’s son is in Grade 4 at Richard McBride, and by the time it opens in January 2021, he will be in middle school.

But that’s OK, she told the Record.

“Schools are a community asset. I vote here. I’ve had indoor soccer practice. I’ve come here for multiple reasons that have nothing to do with my kid being in school here.

“Yeah my kid is not going to have that advantage, but at the same time it’s for other kids and it’s for other members of the community,” she said.

The new school will include the three extra classrooms requested by the school district late last year to address new class size language required as a result of the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that sided with B.C. teachers on language stripped from the teachers’ contract by the former B.C. Liberal government.

There will also be space inside the school for the existing StrongStart program and a Neighbourhood Learning Centre for before- and after-school programs.

Construction is expected to begin this fall. Once the new school is complete, the existing school will be demolished and the three portables on the site will be removed.

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