Today’s election promise by the BC NDP is to build a new high school in Pitt Meadows, and buy land for a new elementary in the Silver Valley neighbourhood of Maple Ridge.
Lisa Beare, BC NDP candidate for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, announced her party’s commitment on Tuesday morning. It would replace the existing Pitt Meadows Secondary – which was built in 1961 – at a cost of $80 to $90 million. It would be built on the same site.
“It’s old, and in desperate need of both renovations and seismic upgrades,” Beare said of the building.
Renovations have been discussed between the city and education ministry, but Beare said simply: “It’s time for a full rebuild.”
Beare said she personally attended high school at Maple Ridge Secondary, and then was part of the second graduating class from the new Thomas Haney Secondary. She found it “extraordinarily exciting” to attend her final two years in a state-of-the-art school, and added “That’s what I want to make sure I’m delivering for students in Pitt Meadows.”
It would be made possible under her party’s proposed $3-billion Recovery Investment Fund, which would be used to build infrastructure and create jobs, she said.
“Investing in communities is how we can help move B.C. further towards economic recovery after the devastating impacts of COVID-19,” said Beare.
“These investments announced today will help provide more security for families who want to establish roots in our community.”
Beare, who started her political career as a school trustee, is aware of the long-time pursuit of a new school to serve the Silver Valley neighbourhood.
She is also a resident of Silver Valley, and said her neighbours frequently talk about the need for the facility, and how they were promised a school when they bought their homes there.
The school district has made it their top priority based on current and projected growth, which estimates 1,420 additional students will be enrolled in the area during the next 10 years.
“We live in a community that is attracting more families, so we need to plan for the future and make sure we have schools and classrooms that allow all students to learn and thrive,” said Beare.
Cheryl Ashlie, Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, accused Beare and other NDP candidates of making “back of napkin” announcements in the days leading up to the snap election call, and since.
“They’re looking for gifts to buy the vote. That’s not my style.”
She agreed replacing the high school in Pitt Meadows is an important project, and said a Liberal government would consider it as part of economic stimulus, but more detailed planning would be completed once the party was elected.
“I would be advocating for high-profile projects for our community,” said Ashlie, adding “I don’t want to get elected on false promises.”
The BC Liberal party has said it invested $4.5 billion in capital funding for schools around the province when it formed government from 2001-2017, completing more than 190 new schools and almost 400 school enhancement projects.
Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall said the city has been involved in advocating for a new high school alongside the district and Beare as MLA, for about a year.
He has had two children and now two grandchildren attend Pitt Meadows secondary, is often in the building, and said it is showing its age.
“In my view, it’s long past its life,” he said.
A new school would draw people to the city, and be a source of pride.
“The school is right in the heart of our city.”
Dingwall said he will continue advocating for a rebuilt school after the election on Oct. 24.