Proposed school plan would replace Massey Theatre with new performing arts centre

The City of New Westminster & SD 40 just sent out the following news release about a new plan proposed for school construction in New Westminster. The proposal includes replacing Massey Theatre, keeping Mercer Stadium and adding a new sports field to the school that will be built on the former St. Mary’s Hospital site.

What do you think of it? We’ll pass on any questions to the City & School Board and let you know what they say.

New secondary school proposal features new performing arts centre

New Westminster, BC — School District #40 and the City of New Westminster have announced a proposed plan that will see a new regional community performing arts centre to replace the existing Massey Theatre included as part of the New Westminster Secondary School replacement project. The announcement came following a thorough discussion process between the School District and the City.

“It’s been a lengthy process and the issues have been complex,” said Mayor Wayne Wright. “The proposed plan will see all major components of the secondary school site maintained with a new high school and state-of-the-art regional community performing arts centre, in addition to new elementary and middle schools delivered for the citizens of New Westminster. We look forward to sharing this exciting concept with the community and getting feedback in the coming weeks.”

As part of the proposed plan, Mercer Stadium would be maintained at the secondary school site and a new field added at the St. Mary’s site.

The proposed plan has been presented to the BC Ministry of Education for initial review. The Ministry feels that the proposal has merit and has encouraged the School District and the City to continue their collaborative efforts to achieve a solution that balances the education needs of students and the broader needs of the community.

The School District and City are planning public information sessions in early September, followed by focused consultation and public workshops. The consultation will take place as part of public consultation regarding inclusion of community programs in schools under the Neighbourhoods of Learning (NOL) program introduced by the Ministry of Education in 2009. Under this program, the School District can receive additional funding to accommodate programs that serve the needs of students and the broader community in new schools.

After these consultations have been completed, the Board of Education and City Council will each consider the findings of the public consultation process and determine whether the proposed plan should move forward.

“We’ve been working hard with the community and the City for a long time, it’s great to see it pay off with this agreement,” said Board Chair James Janzen.”We have 3,000 kids waiting for new schools, and a community that’s been living with uncertainty.”

Once a plan for New Westminster Secondary School is finalized, the school district will be able to proceed with the construction of a new elementary on the St. Mary’s site, a new middle school on the John Robson site and a new high school on the existing NWSS site.

More information on the proposed plan and community consultation process will be forthcoming. Updates will be posted on the School District’s website at www.sd40.bc.ca and on the City website at www.newwestcity.ca.

Massey Theatre ‘the heart of a community’

Massey Theatre. Photo: BuckyHermit
Massey Theatre. Photo: BuckyHermit

This is a guest post by Frances Monteleone, drama teacher at New Westminster Senior Secondary.

A theatre represents the heart of a community; a single performance can unite strangers and evoke a sense of belonging and understanding. New Westminster cannot lose its beloved Massey Theatre.

During this period of economic breakdown and resulting budget cuts, we must continue to recognize what is integral to our city’s livelihood. Moreover, we cannot turn a blind eye to the many benefits this particular stage has provided to the students in our district. We must make every effort to preserve and save an aging building that has presented its users with so many opportunities throughout its sixty years of history.

I have had the privilege of directing numerous shows on the Massey Stage, including sold-out performances of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie. It is imperative that the students continue to have access to this particular theatre. Anything smaller would not suffice.

The more we work together the happier we’ll be. Let’s find a solution so that everyone can stand up and applaud.

New middle school could be built on parkland

And then there were none...

A small geographical footprint is both one of New Westminster’s charms and one of its challenges. Density is inevitable. Sprawl is not an option. This is great, if you’re assessing public transit feasibility or walkability within the city. It means, however, that options are limited when it comes to new development.  

New West has long known it needs new schools. The current high school is in need of upgrades and isn’t adequate to house all of the city’s kids. The original idea was to rebuild on the same site. The catch? Our secondary school is built on an indian burial ground
It’s like something out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I keep expecting some kind of monstrous hell-beast to emerge from a Hellmouth deep in the bowels of the school, threatening to bet all the city’s kittens at poker and cursing the local mallrats with syphilis
So, we need new schools. And we can’t build them on the site where NWSS has stood for 60 years in case executed Tsilhqot’in warrior Chief Ahan was buried there 144 years ago. 
Something has to give. And that ‘something’ seems likely to be park land. Three parks are currently being considered for a new middle school site, all in the West End:
While residents would lose some park space (and potentially see more traffic), we have it on good authority that if land for the school is carved out of a park like Grimston, the site would also see upgrades that could offset the loss. 
In any case, this is all still tentative. The city is gathering feedback now, so if you want to learn more about the ghost of Chief Ahan or share your opinions on the new school site, there are some important dates to know (all events at the NWSS library):
  • Oct. 25 (11am, 1 & 3pm)  & Oct. 30 (7pm) (just in time for Halloween!) – Historical research on the cemetery at NWSS. 
  • Nov. 1 (11am, 1 & 3pm) & Nov. 4 (7:30pm) – Public info sessions on middle school options.