After nearly three years of construction, students at New Westminster Secondary School officially began using their new school building early this week.
The new $106.5 million replacement school building was constructed on the school grounds, adjacent to the 1949-built original school building. This is the most expensive school construction project funded by the provincial government.
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It has a capacity for 1,900 students and was built to fulfill seismic resistance requirements and improve learning outcomes.
The West Coast contemporary designed, three-storey school is built to a LEED Gold green building standard and incorporates wood materials. Graham Design-Builders LP and KMBR Architects Planners Inc. are the design-build team for the project.
It features 56 classrooms, seven collaborative learning spaces, 5,600 sq. ft. grand commons foyer, 280-seat performing arts theatre, a fitness gym, a gymnasium with three courts and retractable bleachers to accommodate 500 spectators during games and events, and two outdoor sports fields.
A covered “outdoor student patio” allows for social gathering and access to Mercer Stadium.
“Whether it’s been the staff, students or the limited members of the community who have been able to join us for controlled walk-throughs the repeated words and phrases we’re hearing are: ‘Wow, it’s so open,’ and, ‘It’s so modern’ … and then more general comments about all the opportunity that’s just been opened up,” said Gurveen Dhaliwal, board chair at New Westminster Schools, in a statement.
“Not only does this new school stand out because it’s the only secondary school in our district, but it will stand as a flagship school in this larger region and across this province for the innovative way collaboration has been designed into every hallway and every classroom. This school has been built to support cutting-edge teaching and learning, and that’s going to allow us to better prepare our students for the changing and modern world they’re walking into.”
With the new building now open, work on decommissioning the old building will accelerate, and demolition will begin by the end of the school year.
The footprint of the old building will be used as replacement green space that was eliminated from the construction of the new building. There are plans to design a “memorial passive park space” on this site.
The new school building was originally scheduled to open at the start of the school year in September 2020, but it was delayed due to COVID-19’s impact on the construction timeline.
The provincial government has set aside an additional $2.8 billion over the next few years for seismic upgrades and replacements, new and expanded schools, and land purchases for future schools.