Chilliwack school district seeks $58M for school construction

Chilliwack says it needs $40 million over the next two years, and $18 million in the following three to deal with growing enrolment

The Chilliwack School District has put a price tag on the construction it says is necessary to keep pace with the district’s growing enrolment.

It’s asking the province for close to $40 million over the next two years, and another $18 million in the following three, to expand six existing schools and build two more.

The figures, contained in the district’s five-year capital plan, flesh out the long range plan the school board approved last month.

That plan called for the construction of two new schools to accommodate development plans in Chilliwack’s Eastern Hillsides district, as well as additions to Evans elementary, Sardis elementary, Watson elementary, Promontory Heights elementary, Sardis secondary and G.W. Graham middle/secondary.

The five-year plan approved unanimously by trustees Tuesday evening calls for an aggressive construction schedule in the first year to address not only current overcrowding, but additional enrollment as new homes are built.

Said district secretary treasurer Maureen Carradice: “The reality of our situation is we have very real and very immediate enrollment pressures in all of those schools.”

The district is asking the province for $3.3 million for an addition at Promontory elementary, $3.9 million at Sardis elementary, and $7.2 million at G.W. Graham. It would also like an additional $2 million for mechanical upgrades at Vedder middle school and Tyson elementary.

This is not the first time the district has asked for funding to expand Promontory school. It has topped the list on the district’s capital plan wish list before.

Students at Sardis elementary, meanwhile, have been in portable classrooms for nearly10 years, trustees heard.

Schools slated for expansion in the second year of the five-year plan include Watson elementary ($2.8 million), and Evans elementary ($3 million).

Also in the second year, the district is looking for $18 million for the site acquisition and preliminary stages of two new schools in the Eastern Hillsides: $6 million for a kindergarten-to-Grade 6 school, and $12 million for a K-to-9 school.

That new construction has been prompted by the City of Chilliwack’s recent approval of its Eastern Hillsides Comprehensive Development Plan, which projects a population growth that could top 6,400 people.

The K-to-9 school would require an additional $517,000 in Year 3 of the plan, and a final $16.7 million in Year 4 for a total expected cost of $29.3 million.

Trustee Doug McKay questioned why the five-year capital plan was so heavy on expenditures in the first two years – a concern echoed by others around the table.

However, Carradice said the funding requests simply reflects the immediate need for additional classroom space in those schools.

“They are all significantly pressing,” she emphasized.

The district’s five-year plan will now go to Victoria where it will be reviewed. Approval – should it come – is not expected until early spring, Carradice said.