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District hit with demand to contribute $25M toward costly new Coquitlam school

SD43 surplus savings, reserves and $10 million set aside for Scott Creek Middle additions to ensure a joint middle/secondary school on Burke Mountain goes ahead.
Joint Burke Mountain middle secoondary school
Site location for a joint middle and secondary school for Burke Mountain in Coquitlam.

Officials will have to dig deep to find $25 million for its contribution toward a $150 million school for a fast-growing Coquitlam neighbourhood.

B.C. is hanging its final approval for the building on a business plan and a promise School District 43 (SD43) will fork over a significant chunk of cash for the long-awaited joint middle and high school project.

A report was sent to the province with more details about the project in January. Now, the district has to figure out how to come up with its share.

"We wish our contribution was a bit more affordable [but] we need this project to move forward for the community and understand the government's constraints due to COVID-19 and recent natural disasters," SD43 board chair Michael Thomas told the Tri-City News.

A five-year plan, set to be approved March 1, shows how the district will pay for the school, now expected to cost about $150 million up from $125 million due to escalating material cost, labour and supply chain issues.

Thomas said the lion's share of the funding comes from a decision to contribute $10 million SD43 set aside for classroom additions for Scott Creek Middle towards the new Burke Mountain school.

It was a difficult choice, the Port Coquitlam trustee said, but the district is hopeful the province will pay for the Scott Creek additions so construction can go ahead to meet the need for more classrooms.

"We're hopeful that the ministry will come to the table with money for that project."

The remaining $15 million will be savings from transferring an SD43-run pension to the Municipal Pension Plan ($10 million), future operating surpluses ($3 million) and savings from other capital projects ($2 million).

As well, the province has indicated any savings from the Burke Mountain joint middle/high school construction can go toward reducing the district's contributions, according to a report in the board agenda package.

Thomas said SD43 is determined to get the school built and is motivated to find the funds.

But there remains another hurdle to getting provincial approval.

The district wants a "design, bid, build" contract, so it can hire an architect and get started right away while the province prefers a design-build method for getting the school built.

Still, Thomas said he's optimistic that, after so many years of lobbying and a major funding commitment from the district, the project will get done.

"If everything lines up and they indicate we can use design, bid, build and we receive funding in April or May, we anticipate doors opening in September 2026."