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Centennial field and building delays anger Coquitlam parents

School board says legal issues have held up the projects but parents want a public accounting

Some Centennial secondary parents are calling for School District 43 to do a public accounting of delays to the construction of offices, changerooms, a gym and a turf field that were supposed to be built by now on land cleared of the former school building.

“I think a lot of parents are frustrated about where this project is,” said Giulio Caravatta, whose two children go to the Coquitlam school.

It’s been three years since the new Centennial secondary opened, but the neighbourhood learning centre (NLC) that was to be developed in the school’s second phase remains unfinished, while construction has yet to begin on the turf field even though a 2018 city report said it would be finished by June, 2020.

The neighbourhood learning centre at Centennial secondary school
The neighbourhood learning centre at Centennial secondary school in Coquitlam is only partially constructed. - Diane Strandberg

According to SD43, the project has been tied up in legal issues since a new contractor was hired to finish the work. Each subcontractor had to submit documentation on its portion of the job for a paper trail for accountability in case of any deficiencies and to bring the new contractor up to speed on the job. 

“The building should be completed by now and we are working extremely hard to get this project moving so the building is completed as quickly as possible to the highest standard,” said communications manager Ken Hoff in an email to the Tri-City News.

But parents say they are not satisfied by explanations provided by the school district to date and they are worried the hold-up with the NLC building will stall construction of the artificial turf field.

“We need some answers,” said Caravatta.

“The lack of oversight is just shocking,” said Tony Oljaca

Both say their children are missing out on high school sports events that could have happened on the school field and don’t have any place to change for PE or to play school sports.

The football team, said Oljaca, has to change on a grassy field next to the practice field while pre-COVID-19 games have had to be played at Town Centre Park, a long way from where most students live.

“It would be nice for the kids to be able to play in front of their classmates,” Caravatta said.

But mostly the parents are upset about how long it has taken to construct the building and turn over the land to the city of Coquitlam so it can build the $3 million field, which it will operate in a partnership agreement with SD43 that retains ownership of the land.

On its website, the district states some work has been done on the NLC, including plumbing, HVAC and electrical infrastructure, wall framing, roofing and cladding/siding. As well, SD43 and the city are in the early stages of design for the Centennial artificial turf field. 

However, the building is still mostly open to the elements, while the turf field is full of weeds.

A spokesperson for the city of Coquitlam said if the school district can make the field available by April, the artificial turf field could be constructed by September, 2021.

“We need to have control of the site to be able to build the field,” explained Lanny Englund, manager of park planning and forestry.

Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge said the artificial turf field at Centennial is important for the neighbourhood and he, too, is anxious to see it completed. He’s also buoyed by the fact that this would be the seventh for the city, and working in conjunction with SD43 is an important part of bringing turf fields to the city. Another was built at Dr. Charles Best and one is planned for the high school at Burke Mountain.

“I think we recognize the need for these fields, that’s why we made the commitment to pay to put another one in.”

But while the district’s Hoff said the plan is to have the field ready by September, 2021, he couldn’t confirm when the NLC building would be complete, stating only that “This process goes well beyond simply having a new contractor begin where the last contractor left off,” and that there are a number of legal issues to ensure there are no cost overruns.

“That said, it is expected that the project will be completed on budget in spite of all the issues and delays the district has faced,” Hoff further stated.

Still, parents are worried that with each passing day, delays will mount, the use of the NLC further put off and the field won’t be built in time for the 2021 playing season.

Among the fixes they would like to see would be trailers for students to use as changing rooms, noting that it’s not just soccer that would use the field but field lacrosse and football, as well as a line by line public explanation of the delays.

Oljaca, who went to Centennial and played football, said he’ll be disappointed if his own son can’t benefit from the new facilities.

“When you have great experiences, you want him to have a good experience, too.”