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Photos: Province approves $135M for joint 1,000-seat Coquitlam school

When Burke Mountain's middle-secondary facility opens in fall 2026, SD43 will seek to build a new middle school to help with the neighbourhood's predicted population growth.

There will be a new high school on Burke Mountain.

And while it won't open until fall 2026 — two years later than what was originally promised — the province's approval marks an important step in what has been years of advocacy by parents and politicians alike.

Today (Aug. 30), Premier John Horgan announced B.C. is investing $135 million to build a joint middle and secondary school that will house 1,000 students in Grades six to 12.

Construction is set to begin next year, Horgan said, with development company Wesbild and the City of Coquitlam providing a total of $10 million for amenities and a lit artificial turf field.

For thousands of current residents, this is good news in knowing their young kids who will be eligible for middle or high school in 2026 will only be a short drive or walk from school.

This also rings true to those set to attend the new $47.3-million Coast Salish Elementary this fall.

But with the Burke Mountain neighbourhood expected to swell to 50,000 residents in coming years, will the 1,000 spaces be enough?

When asked by the Tri-City News about the number, board chair Michael Thomas said School District 43 (SD43) has plans to seek approval for a new middle school nearby to accommodate the predicted population growth.

"The plan is to build a full-fledged middle school down the road on the same site," he said before dozens of students, parents, teachers and education representatives on hand for the announcement at Smiling Creek Elementary (3456 Princeton Ave.).

"So we will, within the same site, will have both a full secondary school as well as a full middle school down the road....we certainly will want to get started on that project as quickly as we can to continue to meet enrolment pressures in this area."

Thomas added the upcoming joint facility is set to include an "expanded core," which could provide more seats, if needed in the future, within the secondary half.

For some parents, however, the four-year wait still means frustration as they try to plan the right commutes to school and work, while also dealing with the rising cost of living, like gas.

Thomas sympathized.

"I can appreciate that challenge. My own children attend Terry Fox Secondary School and I live just on the Port Coquitlam side of the corridor," he explained, noting it's important to address the needs of families living in growing neighbourhoods.

"What I do know is that we continue to work collaboratively both with the Ministry of Education, the City of Coquitlam and the City of Port Coquitlam to improve access for our students, and we'll continue to work towards building new schools as quickly as possible to meet demand."

According to the City of Coquitlam, it's density is set to grow by 24,000 people over the next 10 to 25 years.

On Burke Mountain, plans to build a new $115-million recreation centre and community village highlight new neighbourhoods stretching out to Pinecone Burke Provincial Park.

The new school also builds on the promise Horgan made during a 2020 provincial-election campaign tour stop in Coquitlam, but he said today the work is not done.

"And of course, not just building a commitment, but meeting the expectations of the people who come to this dynamic community expecting to have the services that they deserve....very exciting for the people in the region," Horgan said during the news conference.

Notable dignitaries also on hand for today's announcement included kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation Chief Ed Hall, B.C. education minister Jennifer Whiteside and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly, who said he spent long hours in Victoria advocating in person for the new school.

"Families have been expecting more schools on Burke Mountain, and we're delivering them so students of all ages can receive a quality education close to home," explained Donnelly in a separate statement.

"Our government has been working hard with parents, the school district and the city to bring these schools to fruition, and I'm so happy to see the results of that work paying off for families in Coquitlam and throughout our province."