One more—big—hurdle for high school

John Gaiptman joined the New Westminster School District in February, after retiring from his job at the helm of the Greater Victoria School District. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
John Gaiptman joined the New Westminster School District in February, after retiring from his job at the helm of the Greater Victoria School District.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

The New Westminster secondary replacement project cleared one hurdle last week and may leap over a big one soon.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender recently said the school district had to prove two things before it would get the ministry’s blessing. One was to determine how many students the new school would hold. New Westminster wanted it to house 1,900 so it could keep its current programs.

The 1,900 enrolment figure was agreed to shortly after Fassbender’s statement, said district superintendent/CEO John Gaiptman. He added the ministry considered building a smaller school.

“That was the hang up, what our numbers were going to be at NWSS. Because there are empty seats in Burnaby, and we certainly didn’t want to fill up Burnaby schools with New West positions. We seemed to be in a tough position,” said Gaiptman. “We wanted a school that would allow us to keep all of our students in New Westminster and not used to fill up other schools in Burnaby.”

There are 2,200 enrolled at NWSS, but it will lose its Grade 8 students to the new Fraser River Middle School when it opens in September 2015.

What’s left is to firm up the costs for dealing with all the site issues that have plagued the NWSS project for more than a decade.

“We’re meeting with Minister Fassbender at the end of this week just to try to get that completed,” said Gaiptman. “We’ve laid it out and we’re just looking for approval to move it along.”

Much of the site needs remediation due to poor soil conditions from previous use. A large portion was also once a cemetery, and is slated to become a passive park. The new school is to be built where the current Massey wing is and on top of the skate park next to Mercer Stadium.

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