New Westminster schools project tweaking nearing completion
A project proposal for three new schools in New Westminster should be finalized to take to the Ministry of Education by the end of this month, according to project manager Jim Alkins.
The proposal for building a new elementary on the former St. Mary's Hospital site, followed by a middle school at John Robson and then a rebuild of New Westminster secondary has had to undergo much technical and legal tweaking.
"The projects will extend over a number of years so it's important to define costs so we can get ministry approval," said Alkins. "If the players change over time we at least have something in writing.
"It's been taking, I suspect, a lot longer than people were expecting ... We were hoping to be at a project agreement sooner than now."
Alkins said a prime example of some of the hiccups is the city's requirement for buried power lines in new developments. The ministry doesn't view that as an educational cost, so the city has been asked to approve a variance to reduce the extent of the requirement. The request is still being considered.
"It's a fairly significant cost," said Alkins.
Another is the land swap at NWSS, which involves the city turning over the skateboard park property to the school district. But since the school's rebuild is the last of the three projects it had to be determined who would operate the park until construction started.
"We're making good progress. We spend a lot of time talking about things," said Alkins, who had just got off the phone with the city's engineering department discussing traffic access to the new schools.
"It ends up being a fairly technical process so then we can convince the ministry we have a project that is doable and fits the ministry budget."
Right now the project proposal is a 72-page document. Alkins isn't sure how long it will take before the ministry gives the go ahead since it's a back-and-forth process. Complicating matters in this instance is the fact it involves three schools and a heritage cemetery.
"It will be an interesting one, that's for sure," said Alkins, who was also the project manager for building the new Burnaby Central secondary scheduled to open in September.
If it is approved, then the district will ask for bids to do the design and construction process.
To view the latest school projects update go to www.nwschoolprojects.ca.
Last July, Alkins unveiled the proposed timeline for the project (shown below) which outlined the following timelines. Breaking ground this year for the first school now appears unlikely.
September 2010 - Public consultation
2011 - Break ground for the new elementary school on the St. Maryâ€™s Hospital site
2012-13 - Break ground on new middle school at current Robson elementary site
2013 - new elementary finished
2014-15- Break ground on new high school at Mercer site
2015 - Complete middle school
2016-2017 - completion of new high school