Chilliwack’s capital wish list

The Chilliwack school district is looking for nearly $80 million over the next three years for new school construction and expansion.

And that’s just part of what it hopes the (likely) NDP government will deliver to this bastion of B.C. Liberalism.

It wants $35 million next year to construct a new school at the end of Tyson Road; $25.2 million the following year for an addition to GW Graham; and, $19.6 million in 2020/21 for an addition to Chilliwack Secondary, which opened just five years ago at a cost $58 million.

The request comes in the district’s five-year capital plan – an annual wish list that school districts must provide to the education ministry.

Asking for the money carries no guarantee it will be delivered. In what’s become an annual ritual, Chilliwack calls for funds to build new schools or expand existing ones. Usually those pleas go unanswered (except this year – an election year – when $4 million was wrested from the province to expand Promontory elementary).

But also every year, the requests become more urgent.

Chilliwack school district remains one of the fastest growing in the province. While some districts (like Vancouver) are seeing enrolment decline, Chilliwack is anticipating another three per cent increase next year.

It will add 16 portables to its inventory this year, but clearly more permanent classroom space is needed. Even after the expansion of Promontory, some students will be housed in portables.

Of course, Chilliwack is not the only district calling for new school construction.

And it will be up to our MLAs to make our case in Victoria.

The question is, will their voices be heard any better now that they’ll be coming from the opposition benches?

~ Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress