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History honoured in new Centennial: principal

New Coquitlam high school set to open next week, late but worth the wait, administrator says
New Centennial
Principal Jon Bruneau outside the new Centennial secondary school building, which will open to 1,400 students this Tuesday.

It's almost a year late but the new Centennial secondary school will finally open to all staff and students next Tuesday — and it should be worth the wait, says its principal.

“It’s a big difference from the old school and the thing you’ll notice right away is the amount of light,” said Jon Bruneau, who was busy this week getting ready for opening day. "It’s also very airy, with vaulted ceilings throughout."

Already its 1,250 capacity will be exceeded, with some 1,400 students expected to attend, although some will go to Centennial for specific programs while taking academics at their home schools.

The replacement building, including a neighbourhood learning centre, is slated to cost $61 million, according to the Ministry of Education, and will be a showcase for science and technology as well as a hub for theatre activity.

According to Bruneau, the school will return to the five-block schedule it had two years ago to accommodate all the students, who will have an extended lunch hour but at different times throughout the day, depending on the students’ schedule, instead of a common lunch hour.

“It’s a full complement of kids. We’ve made room for all the kids in the catchment,” Bruneau told The Tri-City News.

Parts of the new school have already been open to technology education students for a year but it took an extra 12 months to get the rest of the building ready for occupancy. Landscaping is not complete as gardeners are waiting for cooler weather.

Among the features of the new building is what Bruneau called a “super” science lab, the equal of any science lab available at the college level, as well as a teaching kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment, a 234-seat theatre and fast wireless internet access throughout.

Ivano Cecchini, School District 43's assistant secretary treasurer for facilities planning and services, said the project was more complex than the contractors initially thought, and the long, cold winter didn’t help. But he said delays in the opening and additional work bringing the project to completion won’t cost the district any extra money because the contract was based on a fixed cost.

“We wanted to make sure the building was ready to go functionally and educationally, we wanted to make sure it was done well,” Cecchini said.

Bruneau said he expects staff and students to enjoy the new building, with its distinctive west-coast feel, with lots of cedar wood accents, an outdoor amphitheater and a holding pond for water that will be planted with water-loving plants.
“There’s a lot of nooks and crannies around the landscaping," he said. "Teachers will appreciate that when it’s done.”

With the final details nearing completion, work is beginning on phase two of construction, with the original 50-year-old building to be torn down, along with weight and change rooms attached to the Blue gym, which will be maintained and shared between the school and the city (a portable has been installed to accommodate the weight and change rooms).

Site preparation will then begin on the neighbourhood learning centre, which will include classrooms and office space, and an additional gym, with construction slated to take two years.

Cecchini said the district is also working on a plan for a private partner to develop land on which the original building now sits to build a soccer field.

“There’s interest in that. We’re still having conversations.” Cecchini said.

As for the future of the new Centennial, Bruneau wants to assure current and former students that the school’s longstanding culture will be retained.

“We intend to honour the history. We’re not changing our mascot, it is a centaur, we will be the Centaurs,” he said, also promising that a time capsule that was unearthed during construction of the new school will be re-buried, along with a new time capsule.

“We are really trying to maintain the history and also to building the new culture in the building.”

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