Funding for blended middle/secondary school on Burke Mountain for 2023 opening.

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In October 2020, MLA Fin Donnelly’s words “We promised the two schools…We want to deliver on that” really resonated with our growing community of Burke Mountain, and trust in this pledge was demonstrated with an overwhelming number of NDP supporting votes.  The Smiling Creek Elementary Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) would like to take this opportunity to ask you to join us in advocating for committed provincial funding for the future blended middle/secondary school on Burke Mountain. As we are in the middle of the 2020/2021 school year it is a critical window for such funding decisions, particularly if the Burke Mountain community is to see the blended school built by the anticipated 2023 opening.

If you are not aware, “the population of the Northeast Neighbourhood Area was documented to be 12,100 people in the 2016 Census. Population projections show that this area may have a population of 21,000 people by 2026, growing to 39,000 by 2046”. Coquitlam is estimated to be one of the fastest-growing municipalities in British Columbia, with Northeast Coquitlam’s population growth doubling over a 5 year period and being substantially higher than the city’s overall growth rate of 9.8%.  Census data shows that children aged 0-9 in 2016 comprised 17% of the total population of Northeast Coquitlam, a stark contrast to the 11% in the rest of Coquitlam. Five years later, this demographic is now in desperate need of a middle and secondary school to accommodate the overall population growth in this age range and the rapid rate of development on Burke Mountain.

Smiling Creek Elementary, still considered a new school in its 3rd year, is already at capacity and will have 4 portables installed on the recreational black top over the summer to accommodate the growing population on Burke Mountain. The number of students graduating from Smiling Creek Elementary has also drastically increased, with the number leaving for middle school doubling each year since it has opened and continuing to grow exponentially as the larger volume of younger students move up through the elementary years.  With the anticipated opening of Sheffield Elementary only a year away, there will be no shortage of students in the coming years needing access to a local middle and secondary school.

Currently the closest middle schools are more than a 30 minute walk from our community and they are also nearing, if not at, full capacity having to accept the influx of students from numerous overpopulated schools in the area. Furthermore, there are already hundreds of pre-teens and teenagers currently living on Burke Mountain who are travelling by city bus (and harried parents!) to get to middle and secondary schools well outside our community; the planned growth for Burke will exacerbate this situation to untenable conditions in the all too near future. 

As parents of students at Smiling Creek Elementary, we can attest to the tremendously positive impact the school has had on our community. Along with the invaluable social, mental, physical and environmental benefits of developing neighbourhood friendships and living within walking distance to our local school, the shared space with the City of Coquitlam has also resulted in a nearby recreational amenity and collaborative partnership.

With our growing population on Burke Mountain, we are advocating for our middle and high school aged children to have equal access to the same local school facilities and educational opportunities as our neighbouring communities, and are hopeful that our children can continue to attend school in this area after they leave Smiling Creek. Many of you have made the decision to purchase and raise your families on Burke Mountain after being informed of the plans for the projected middle school opening in 2023, and would like to see the school completed as projected.

School district 43 has completed and submitted the concept plan for the blended middle/secondary school back in September 2020 and with the expected construction timeframe for over 2 years, this is critical timing for funding for this school to be announced as soon as possible so that construction can begin to fulfil this projected timeline.

We are very grateful for Smiling Creek Elementary and the soon to be built Sheffield Elementary and all we are asking is that the NDP Government fulfil their pledge to complete “the final stages of a concept plan for the new Burke Mountain Middle and Secondary school” by committing funding now to provide opportunity for equal access to education for all local families. We trust that all efforts will be made at the government level to support the growing Burke Mountain community, but now is the time to take action and hold our leaders accountable.

Please show your support by signing this petition and writing a letter to John Horgan and copying our MLA and Education Minister (listed below), as they have the power to green light this project NOW!!

 

Thank you for your time,

Damian Stanley, Chair

Smiling Creek Elementary PAC

On behalf of the Burke Mountain community

 

john.horgan.mla@leg.bc.ca;

Fin.Donnelly.mla@leg.bc.ca; educ.minister@gov.bc.ca

 

References:

1. https://www.tricitynews.com/local-news/ndps-fin-donnelly-flips-coquitlam-burke-mountain-in-tri-city-orange-sweep-3144466  Retrieved March 4, 2021.
2. Northeast Coquitlam Community Profile 2019.  City of Coquitlam - Census & National Household Survey Data (Community Profiles - Coquitlam Neighbourhoods).
3. https://www.coquitlam.ca/880/Northeast-Community-Centre#:~:text=The%20population%20of%20the%20Northeast,growing%20to%2039%2C000%20by%202046  Retrieved March 4, 2021

4. https://vancouversun.com/news/ndp-leader-john-horgan-pledges-to-complete-middle-high-schools-in-coquitlam-burke-mountain Retrieved March 4, 2021.