Provincial funding sought for new green school

School District 43 on a fast-track to get funding and partners for a net zero school in Coquitlam it hopes to open by 2023

A green school for Coquitlam won’t be built without extra money and support from the community, the province and Coquitlam city council, School District 43 trustees were told this week.

And a funding commitment is needed as soon as possible or the new joint middle/secondary school for Burke Mountain won’t be built by 2023 as promised.

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“We can deliver the product but you will need to advocate,” was secretary treasurer Chris Nicoll’s blunt assessment at the June 11 school board meeting.

Plans are in the works to build a net zero school that wouldn’t use more energy than it produces, but to add solar panels and wind turbines, rain water systems to flush toilets, and geothermal energy to heat buildings will cost more money than a typical school.

Taking steps to slow climate change and concerns about energy efficiency — utilities can be costly for typical schools — were among the reasons for building a school to standards higher than LEED (Leadership in Environmental Design) Gold.

“Climate change is being seen as something that is a critical emergency in our country,” said Ivano Cecchini, the district’s executive director for facility planning services. “ 

He said the new school with green design and conservation measures could also be used to teach the students how to be environmental stewards.

But while trustees were enthusiastic about the plan, some raised concerns about the additional costs and the challenges of obtaining more funding for a green school.

“What’s viable,” asked Coquitlam trustee Craig Woods, who noted that the district has an “immense bubble” of ongoing capital projects. He said finding partners is “a key component as to whether this project moves forward or not.”

Coquitlam is already a partner in the project, having contributed to the project that will also have a turf field, with a $5 million contribution from developer Wesbild, and other park amenities

There will also be a public campaign to search for partners to help cover the premium cost.

“The more endorsement and support you will get the better off you will be,” Pollock acknowledged.

Trustees agreed to strategize a plan to build support for the project that would serve the growing community of Burke Mountain.

Although they don’t meet again publicly until Sept. 24, trustees expressed hope that work could be done to get additional funding for the green initiatives.

At just four years away, the district is on a fast-track to try and get provincial funding but so far there has been no commitment for the project. 

The board may need to put some of its funds to getting plans under way, Cecchini said or “we take a pause” and the school “will not open by 2023.”

“We need to get approval from the province as soon as possible,” Port Coquitlam trustee Michael Thomas acknowledged.

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