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Facing delays, push is on for funds to build $125-million Coquitlam school

Coquitlam school district is urging the B.C. ministry of education to fund the long-awaited Burke Mountain school, which will house middle and secondary students in the growing neighbourhood; the original opening date of 2023 is now likely to be 2024 or later, according to officials
Joint secondary and middle site
A map of the location of the joint secondary/middle school site on Burke Mountain in Coquitlam.

A long-awaited secondary/middle school for Burke Mountain in Coquitlam is facing delays of a year or more if funds aren’t immediately provided by the province, according to School District 43.

In a letter to ministry of education officials this week, SD43 board chair Kerri Palmer Isaak states that funding delays have already jeopardized a 2023 opening, and without an injection of funds to get it built, even a 2024 opening is uncertain.

“An aspect of the urgency in securing funding is that a promised school opening date of September 2023 is now unattainable, and a September 2024 date is becoming increasingly challenging,” the letter states.

The letter to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside is part of a full court press of lobbying by parents, Coquitlam school trustees, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam councillors and MLAs to get the joint Burke Mountain middle and high school built.

Now costing an estimated $125 million compared to $70 million when the joint secondary/middle school building was proposed in 2017, the school for 1,000 students is a capstone project for Burke Muntain, where up to 50,000 residents will call home when built out.

“We want this done for 2023 and I know that’s an ambitious target right now,” said Palmer Isaak, who is also an Anmore/Belcarra trustee.

She said trustees have pressed their case with MLAs recently, including Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson, who is also B.C.’s finance minister, and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly.

And if lobbying isn’t enough, trustees are looking at ways to contribute some more funds to the project to speed up construction, on top of $480,000 already spent by the district on design concept. “We do not have any provincial funding for that project yet. It’s demonstrating that the board has a commitment to this project even though we don’t have funding, “ Palmer Isaak explained.


The new school will be located southeast of Coast Meridian Road and David Avenue at 3400 David Ave. and will be part of a joint-use school/park site with the city of Coquitlam, which is also participating in the effort to win provincial approval.

It’s been a long haul for this project, which parents have been clamouring for over the years and now includes an online petition at, with more than 700 names.

In recent months, the school board has had to give up a plan to make the building the greenest school in Canada because of the pandemic and difficulties raising funds. During the 2020 provincial election, BC Liberal candidates took the John Horgan NDP government to task for not advancing the funds in a timely manner.

Both Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam councils have put their weight behind the project, bringing it up at Union of BC Municipalities meetings while Coquitlam council once again raised the issue at its March 8 council meeting; it will be sending a letter asking for provincial approval.

In expressing optimism during Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Richard Stewart said there was “passion at the cabinet table for this.”

Currently, the Coquitlam students are bused or driven to Port Coquitlam middle schools, including Minnekhada and Kwayhquitlum, and to Terry Fox secondary school, where portables have been on site to handle its population for a number of years.

Palmer Isaak said the community is growing and a blended school closer to home for Burke Mountain residents is “essential.”

The site that will be used to accommodate the middle/secondary school will eventually become two separate buildings.

It is a 22-acre site, jointly owned by SD43 and the city of Coquitlam. The district owns 14 acres that will accommodate the middle/secondary school and subsequently, as enrolment increases, a second school will be built as a middle school. The city owns eight acres and has pledged to build a lit, artificial turf field, track and park for community use as well.

The site is challenging due to extreme elevation changes, which, along with higher construction costs has led to the funding requirement ballooning from $70 million to $125 million.