The Burnaby high school most at risk of structural failure during an earthquake is finally being replaced.
Burnaby North Secondary was first flagged as a seismically risky school in the 1990s.
Nearly three decades later, the province announced Friday it will spend $79 million on a new, safer building.
Construction on the project will start next spring and the school should be ready to open by September 2021.
“This announcement provides an opportunity to design a school that facilitates and supports the great teaching and learning that occurs here every day, to create a flexible and dynamic environment that honours the importance of place and provides a welcoming space for our students and staff to connect, collaborate and come together” principal Dave Rawnsley said at the funding announcement in front of the school.
The new 1,800-student school will be built on a different part of the property so students can keep going to school in the current building until the new one is built.
“There’s two options: one would be right in here behind the two buildings on the gravel field and into the staff parking lot. The second would be to explore the corner of Kensington and Curtis,” Rawnsley told the NOW. “The architects are just in that first phase of planning and looking at what the possibilities might look like.”
The school will come with a 2,000 square-foot neighbourhood learning centre to house child-care facilities, adult education and language development programs.
Education officials agreed the replacement of Burnaby North has been a long time coming.
All local schools built before 1992 have been assessed to see how well they would stand up to “the big one” – a catastrophic quake predicted by geologists when pressure built up between the Juan de Fuca and North American tectonic plates for the last 300 years suddenly releases.
Twenty-four School District No. 41 schools were originally deemed to be at high or moderate risk of damage during a major quake.
The entire campus of 62-year-old Burnaby North is currently rated High 1, a designation assigned to the “most vulnerable” structures at “highest risk of widespread damage or structural failure; not reparable after event.”
The school has been the district’s number 1 seismic replacement priority for years, according to secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill.
More than five years ago, a month before the provincial election, then- BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark announced $584 million in funding for seismic upgrades for 45 schools, including Burnaby North Secondary.
The 60-year-old school was listed for upgrades in 2014/15 in a press release that quoted Clark saying, “Absolutely nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe.”
It turned out the 2013 promise had been an empty one, however, according to the current NDP education ministry.
“They didn’t, unfortunately, as we discovered when we transitioned into office, have any plans or funding in place or any work behind them, and that certainly was not fair to Burnaby families who expected action and got very very little,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said at Friday’s announcement.
The district didn’t actually get permission to develop a detailed business case for the project until March 2017, according to Horswill.