Ensuring a new elementary school is built in the Albion neighbourhood of east Maple Ridge will be the first priority for the incoming Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education, according to newly elected school board chair Mike Murray.
“It is definitely a priority, just as was for the last board,” he said. “[The previous board] took significant steps … and we need to continue that work.”
By closing down two under-used elementary schools, and using portables over more expensive modular classrooms to accommodate all-day kindergarten, the district has put itself in a strong position to receive capital funding, Murray acknowledged.
“Boards start things and it’s usually future boards that bring them to fruition,” he added.
The district acquired the property for the new school on 104th Avenue, east of 240th Street, more than three years ago.
The new school would have a capacity of 450 students, and would be roughly a kilometre from already overcrowded Albion elementary, adding much needed capacity as the neighbourhood is further developed.
“Once again, we are having to review catchment boundaries because we don’t have what we should have in that area,” said Murray.
In March, the provincial government gave the project a “high” rating and placed it within the Ministry of Education’s five-year capital plan.
The provincial government, which is responsible for new school construction, announced more than $350 million in capital funding for new schools across the province in late October. However, School District No. 42 received nothing.
“We will want to find out why we weren’t on the list when there was an expectation we would be … and make sure that we will be on the list next time,” Murray said.
Murray said he plans to open the discussion the Ministry of Education and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Marc Dalton on how to ensure funding comes sooner, rather than later.
“I would certainly hope we get a commitment from the province to build the school sooner than [the end of the board’s three-year term],” he said.