New Albion school on ministry’s radar

SRT additional also given ‘high’ priority

School District No. 42 is closer than ever to getting capital funding to build a new elementary school in east Maple Ridge, as well as an addition to Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary School.

The provincial government has given both projects a “high” rating and placed them within the Ministry of Education’s five-year capital plan, according to secretary treasurer Wayne Jefferson.

He is optimistic the projects will receive funding from the province within the next three years.

“There’s an acceptance by the Ministry that we have a need,” he told trustees at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

The two projects will have to compete against a backlog of funding request across the province that have piled up since the Ministry of Education all but stopped new school construction in 2005. Many of those projects are in the Surrey school district, one of the few districts in the province that continues to see an increase in enrollment.

However, Jefferson said he expects the ministry to spread the capital projects around.

“If they give all the money to Surrey, the rest of the province will set its hair on fire,” he said.

Funding could be approved even sooner than the three years.

“They can move up if there is capacity,” Jefferson said.

The district already has a site for the new school, on 104th Avenue, east of 240th Street, which it acquired close to three years ago.

The new school would have a capacity of 450 students, and would be roughly one kilometre from the already overcrowded Albion Elementary School, adding much needed capacity if the neighbourhood is further developed.

An expansion to SRT would see the capacity at the high school increased to 1,000, according to the district’s staff report.

The district had originally sought to have the school designed to hold 1,000 students when it was built in 2005, but the province would only fund a school with a capacity of 600 at the time.

Currently, the school’s enrollment is 950, and 10 portables are being used as classrooms.

“This is great news,” said SRT principal Mike Keenan. “Every since we’ve opened our doors we’ve hoped the province would finish what they started.”

The district has also received $1.2 million from the Ministry of Education to build two modular classroom units at Edith MacDermott and Pitt Meadows elementary schools. The modular classrooms are scheduled to be installed by July to make way for the province-wide roll-out of all-day Kindergarten in September.

Each classroom features a fully-functioning washroom, and has an estimated life of 35 years, compared to 10 to 15 for portables.

Originally, seven schools were identified as needing a total of nine modular classrooms for the 2011/12 school year. Five schools in east Maple Ridge (Albion, Alexander Robinson, Kanaka Creek (two), Webster’s Corners (two) and Whonnock elementary) and two in Pitt Meadows (Edith McDermott and Pitt Meadows elementary) will need additional classroom space.

However, the district opted use its existing portable classrooms instead of the new modular units in a bid to save the province $3 million.

Jefferson said he believes the move may have played a role in getting the new elementary school in Albion onto the province’s capital plan.

“I think if you offer them a creative solution you usually get some points,” he said. “It brings something to the table in terms of cost savings.”

The district has also received a “high” priority rating for $4 million worth of mechanical upgrades and body envelope work at six local schools.

Garibaldi and Westview secondary schools have been identified as needing energy-efficient upgrades to their ventilation system, costing $850,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Alouette elementary schools have also been identified as needing body envelope work, along with Thomas Haney secondary.