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'Why many of us voted NDP': Coquitlam parents rally to get $125-million school built

Parents anxiously await the provincial budget to see if funds have been approved for a joint Burke Mountain middle/secondary school they were promised years ago
Coquitlam parents Burke Mountain Rally
Coquitlam parents are getting ready to rally in an effort to convince the provincial government to fund a joint middle/secondary school they have waited years for in Burke Mountain.

The clock is ticking on a timeline for getting the joint Burke Mountain middle and secondary school built for 2023 as originally planned.

School District 43 needs to know if funds for the $125-million school for the growing Burke Mountain neighbourhood will be in this April’s B.C. government budget.

If not, the 1,000-seat school will be delayed yet again and parents are worried it won’t open in time for their children to benefit.

“We are feeling let down,” said Isabel Silvestre, co-founder of the Burke Mountain Parents school group, who said people are moving into new homes in the neighbourhood without the necessary infrastructure in place.

Silvestre, along with a large group of parents with children still in elementary school, are hoping funds will be advanced so the school will be built by the time their kids are in middle school.

They aren’t the first parents to mount a campaign for the joint high school and middle school, but despite the lobbying over the past several years no provincial money has been forthcoming.

"It was a selling point for the developers," said Anthony Corsetti, who has two children, one attending Smiling Creek. He said the school is a draw for families and that many of the parents feel disappointed that the funds haven't materialized.

The parents say they were promised funding for the new building during the fall election when Premier John Horgan visited the area in support of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly.

They hope the premier will keep his word.

“That was why many of us voted NDP,” said Silvestre, pointing to Donnelly's decisive win. “Every year of delay means one less cohort in this school.”

To get their message across, the parents are holding a rally Friday, March 19, between 3 and 4:30 p.m.

The rally will start from Pioneer Park and proceed to Smiling Creek elementary, Coquitlam city hall, offices of local MLAs, the board of education office, Kwayquitlam middle school, Minnekhada middle school and Leigh elementary before concluding at the David Avenue site for the middle/secondary school.

Parents who spoke to the Tri-City News said they were told there would be schools in the area when they moved to Burke Mountain eight years ago. But it’s taken a long time for that promise to be fulfilled. So far, only one school, Smiling Creek, has been built and the parents say their children are spread across Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam schools, creating problems around school crowding and traffic grid-lock.

They also say having neighbourhood children attend different schools depending on their address is making it hard for the youngsters to connect. Instead, they would all like their children to attend a neighbourhood middle and high school in their own city.

“We are trying to build a community and we need a community school,” said Silvestre, pointing out that the new school, when built, will also have a park and community amenities.

In addition to the rally, parents are also encouraged to write provincial ministers and politicians to share their stories and ask for funds for the new building.

The Burke Mountain parents are not alone in their demand for the school, a petition on in support of the school has been backed by more than 800 names, and the School District 43 board of education, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam city councils as well as MLA Donnelly have all advocated for the school.

“Everyone has done what they need to do,” said Silvestre, “Now it’s time for the province to provide the funding.”