The Burnaby school district will grapple with some “bigger concepts” this fall as it looks to make sure there are enough schools to keep up with population growth in the city’s four town centres.
Starting in October, the district will start the process of updating its long-range facilities plan, according to secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill.
And among its top challenges will be the Brentwood town centre area, he said.
“We really believe that there should be an elementary school in the Brentwood town centre, but at this stage, there’s no solution,” he told the NOW.
Condo development in the area had already “greatly affected” enrolment at nearby Brentwood Park Elementary School by the time the district completed its last long-range facilities plan in 2018.
That plan called for the district to acquire a two-and-a-half-hectare site in the rapidly densifying town centre for a new school.
That still hasn’t happened.
“We do not have land secured or designated for a school at this time, so it will mean working with the city and the developers to try to identify a solution,” Horswill said.
Eventually, the district will need new schools in each of the city’s four town centres, according to Horswill.
The district’s most recent five-year capital plan for 2021/22 included requests totalling $90 million for land in Brentwood, Lougheed and Edmonds plus $14-million for a new Brentwood school.
But no new major projects were approved.
Horswill said convincing the ministry to fund school expansions before students arrive can be a challenge but a strong business case helps.
“Right now, that’s really the long-range facilities plan,” Horswill said.
The district had planned to renew its plan this year, he said, but that was put on hold because the COVID-19 pandemic had “greatly reduced” its ability to consult with the community.
Work on the plan – which will project at least 10 years into the future – will resume in October, according to Horswill, and the document should be complete in April in time for the district’s 2022/23 five-year capital plan request to the ministry next June.
While no new major projects were approved for 2021/22, Horswill said the district still has plenty on its plate with projects already approved by the ministry, including the construction of the new Burnaby North Secondary School and major seismic projects at Seaforth, Parkcrest and Stride elementary schools.
The district is also working on business cases for seismic projects at Cameron and Brentwood Park.
“Right now we’ve got a fair number of projects going on,” Horswill said.