SD43 on a mission to replace portables with classrooms

Capital plan needs $28.2 million for new additions for schools in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody plus extra funds to fix leaky school problems

School additions may not be as exciting as new schools but are just as important to providing needed classroom space for the Tri-Cities’ growing population.

And for two high schools built during the height of the leaky condo crisis between 1985 and 2000, work will also fix ongoing problems that are causing maintenance headaches for School District 43 staff.

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This week, SD43 trustees approved the expenditure of $2.2 million in anticipated surplus to pay for design and other work for additions at Riverside secondary in Port Coquitlam and Gleneagle secondary in Coquitlam as well as Port Moody secondary.

The cash, from this year’s anticipated $6 million surplus, is only a drop in the bucket compared to the $28.2 million needed to build the new classrooms but it will help fast-track the projects while the district awaits funding approval from the province.

“You have to begin the process and rather than have those funds in [the] operating [budget] that are surplus to our needs, let’s move forward to start the planning,” said secretary treasurer Chris Nicolls.

Riverside tops the list for capital construction for SD43 this year. At an estimated cost of $9.4 million, the PoCo school needs eight classrooms and another $4 million is required for fascia and gutter repairs due to problems dating back to when the school was built in the 1990s.

“The provincial government will pay for it,” Nicolls said, referring to commitments made by the then-BC Liberal government when the Risk Management Branch obtained a settlement for work estimated to be more than $370 million to fix leaky schools across B.C. In 2002, the province also created a Building Envelope Program to fix the province’s 400 leaky schools.

Nicolls confirmed that Riverside and Gleneagle, which have similar designs, are among the last schools built during that time period to be repaired.

Gleneagle will be getting an eight-classroom addition costing $6.8 million to accommodate new students moving into Coquitlam and to eliminate portables. Another $7.4 million is needed to replace stucco cladding.

Port Moody secondary, which opened in 1973, doesn’t have cladding issues but will need a 12-classroom addition costing $12 million to get rid of portables and provide space for new students from families moving into the city.

Nicolls said building additional classrooms on the PoMo site will prove challenging because of the hillside location and because it is close to a creek.

The district is hoping for construction to be complete on the three high schools in the next five years, according to the most recent capital plan.

Trustees also agreed to spend $100,000 to get preliminary design work done for a new school for Moody elementary. SD43 is hoping to hear soon from the province that funding has been approved for a new 385-student school costing $22 million.

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