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Brentwood prioritized in Burnaby school district's $700M building wish list

The Burnaby school district is requesting provincial funding commitments for nine additions at existing schools, three new schools, three replacements of older schools, six seismic upgrades and seven new sites for future schools – but the 'big' priority is Brentwood town centre, says secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill.
Density: Condo towers rise beside Lougheed Highway in Burnaby's Brentwood town centre.

Making sure there are enough classrooms for a wave of students expected in the Brentwood area is a major focus of a building wish list approved by the Burnaby board of education this week.

Trustees unanimously approved the school district’s five-year capital plan submission to the Ministry of Education at a public board meeting Tuesday.

The document outlines more than $700 million in new projects the district would like the ministry to commit to funding over the next five years, including nine additions at existing schools, three new schools, three replacements of older schools, six seismic upgrades and seven new sites for future schools.  

“We would hope that within the five years these projects that are identified are funded,” school district secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill told the NOW.

The district’s “big priorities” right now, however, are projects that will increase capacity within the Brentwood town centre, including additions at Kitchener Elementary School and Alpha Secondary School and a new school on Dawson Street, according to Horswill.

Horswill noted a seismic addition at Brentwood Park Elementary – already funded and therefore not included on the list – is in the works and should be complete within three years.

“Those will position us well for the growth we’re seeing in the Brentwood north area,” Horswill said.  

A 3.19-acre property on Dawson Street has already been earmarked for a new school, but the district is still working with the city to figure out how it will acquire the site, according to Horswill.

It’s clear the school will have to be bigger than originally anticipated, he said.

In the district’s last five-year capital plan, the board requested just over $34 million to build a 415-student school in the area.

It is now requesting nearly $65 million for an 800-student school.

“As we just continue to look at the development, we’re looking at needing a very large elementary school on the east side,” Horswill said.  

Considering the relatively small size of the Dawson Street site, that means the district will have to build upwards.

All of the existing elementary schools near the town centre were already at or over capacity last year, according to the district’s long-range facilities plan.

B.C. school boards submit their five-year capital plan every June and get a letter from the ministry in March outlining which projects on their lists the provincial government will commit to funding.

A number of major capital projects are already in various stages in Burnaby.

The ministry has already committed to funding seismic additions at Brentwood Park and Cameron Elementary.

A full seismic replacement of Stride Avenue Community School is ready to go to tender, according to Horswill, and major projects at Seaforth and Parkcrest are just wrapping up.

The replacement of Burnaby North Secondary is also nearing completion.

“All of this is going to require lots of work,” Horswill said of the new projects on five-year capital plan.  

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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