The Burnaby school board has adopted an “aggressive” new long range facilities plan to cope with an influx of students that is projected to continue over the coming years.
The plan, approved at a meeting April 27, includes 19 recommendations, including calls for a new Brentwood-area high school, new tower or 'vertical highrise' schools in the Lougheed, Metrotown and Edmonds town centres and three other new elementary schools, two in Brentwood and one in the Bainbridge neighbourhood.
The plan, which is intended to look ahead 10 to 15 years, also calls for several school replacements and expansions.
School board chair Bill Brassington noted the plan came after consultation with students, staff, parents, teachers and members of the general public.
“We shared the reality that we face as a school district in a rapidly growing city,” he said at the meeting.
The Burnaby school district has historically been a “reasonably-paced growing school district,” according to secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill, but that shifted last summer.
A “large number” of the extra students are newcomers to Canada, according to Horswill, coming with families on work visas, student visas or refugee status.
Current school district calculations project similar enrolment growth next year and the year after, Horswill said.
“Accommodating the student growth, given this immigration that’s happening, coupled with our regular growth, really means that we need to have some aggressive approaches,” he said.
Compared to its last long range facilities plan, Horswill said the new document is “raising the urgency.”
“In 2018, when the last plan was done, the district could see that we were having growth coming our way, but now this plan is addressing the growth that we’re actually experiencing.”
In the short term, the plan recommends using school buildings as efficiently as possible, including looking into an extended block strategy at secondary schools and adjusting catchment areas.
In the long term, the district will work on acquiring land and building schools to accommodate the growth, according to Horswill.
- Two new Brentwood area elementary schools (one at 4900 Dawson Street and another in West Brentwood Town Centre) and another new elementary school in the Bainbridge Urban Village development.
- A new Brentwood high school near Brentwood Town Centre.
- A new, much bigger Cameron Elementary School in Lougheed and a kindergarten-to-Grade 3 tower school next to Cameron and linked via an overhead, covered walkway.
- A new Metrotown elementary school – potentially a tower school linked to the existing Maywood Community School site.
- A possible tower school in Edmonds Town Centre.
The new plan also includes recommendations to pursue the replacement and expansion of a number of existing schools across the district.
Work already underway
Three such projects already have provincial government support and are at various stages of completion, according to Horswill.
The replacement of Stride Avenue Community School should be ready to go to tender within a month, he said.
Staff have also completed a report for a seismic upgrade and addition at Brentwood Park Elementary School and are in the process of studying how development in Lougheed will impact student growth at Cameron Elementary.
That report should be ready by the end of the school year or early summer, according to Horswill.
“We’ve got a good understanding now of the enrolment demographics,” he said of the Cameron project. “We are working to understand the phasing on when that development will happen.”
Horswill said the board’s adoption of the new long range facilities plan is a key component to moving projects along.
“It is intended to be a strategic document to guide the board in the future,” he said.
More detailed information about which projects the district wants to get built first and how much they are expected to cost will be included in the board’s annual five-year capital plan request to government in June.
📢 SOUND OFF: What do you think of the Burnaby school district's long-range plan? How should local schools deal with increased enrolment? Are the new planned schools in the right locations, in your opinion? Share your thoughts — send us a letter.