Relief for overcrowded schools in Burnaby’s rapidly growing Brentwood neighbourhood is one step closer Tuesday with the announcement of a site for a new elementary school.
In a joint statement, the city and school district said a city-owned park at 4900 Dawson St. has been identified as the future location of the new school, which could be open by the 2027/28 school year.
400 students already in catchment
The new facility is needed to take the pressure off existing schools, according to the statement, and building one south of Lougheed Highway on Dawson Street will mean students no longer have to cross the busy highway to get to school.
The district estimates more than 400 students already live in the future school’s attendance area.
“We are grateful to the City of Burnaby for their partnership in identifying a suitable location, and we look forward to working with the Ministry of Education and Child Care to secure the site and advance the project,” school board chair Bill Brassington said in the announcement.
Mayor Mike Hurley said the new school will help the city get closer to its goal of creating a so-called “15-minute city.”
“By working with our partners at the Burnaby school district to identify a site for a future school, we’re taking another step towards ensuring families in Brentwood can access everything they need within a 15-minute walk,” he said.
Former industrial site
The idea of putting a school at 4900 Dawson St. has been around in city reports since at least 2007.
That’s the year the city acquired the 3.19-acre former industrial site from developer Ledingham McAllister.
Because the land had “especially poor soil conditions” making it “not conducive to building development,” according to a 2007 city report, the developer gave it to the city in exchange for extra density for a condo tower project now on the north side of Dawson Street where the soil conditions are better.
As part of the deal, LedMac was required to turn the old industrial site into a park, including raising most of it to flood-proof elevation; rehabilitating and enhancing Stickleback Creek and a 30-meter riparian set-back zone at the west and south side of the site; and landscaping.
The property’s 2023 assessed value is $10,966,000, according to information on the city’s website.
Funding for a new Brentwood school was a top priority in the school district’s latest five-year capital plan, with the board requesting just over $34 million to build a 415-student school.
That request will be amended as the plan moves forward, according to school district secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill.
For one thing, the district will now be requesting funding for a 715-student school to accommodate anticipated enrolment growth from a total of 10 condo towers planned in the area.
Horswill said identifying a site for the new school is an essential step toward completing a project definition report, which will describe the school in enough detail (including the number of classrooms, how many storeys it will be and where it will be built on the property) to request provincial funding.
Over the coming months, Horswill said the district will be working on the project definition report while also finalizing a purchase and sales agreement with the city.
Before city council and the school board finalize the agreement, Horswill said the district will do its “due diligence” to identify any challenges with the property, including soil conditions, possible contamination and a riparian setback.
“We will need to do some civil work and make sure that we’re aware of what the soil conditions are,” Horswill said. “But everything we’ve heard so far is that the soils near the road will be suitable to build on, but the soils down near the train tracks are a little softer.”
The district has been told the former industrial site is not contaminated, but Horswill said the district will undertake its own measures to ensure it’s suitable for school and student use.
The district and city will also work together to make sure Stickleback Creek is protected.
While the land chosen for the new school is currently right next to a large industrial site (the remains of Woodlands or Dragonwood Industrial Estates), the Concord Brentwood masterplan calls for the creation of a 13-acre urban park on the other side of Stickleback Creek.
If all goes to plan, the new school could open for the 2027/28 school year, according to Horswill.
“But there’s a lot of work to do and funding to obtain to do that,” he said.
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