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New secondary school a step closer to reality in New Westminster, B.C.

It's a project that's been years in the making, but a new secondary school is now one step closer to reality in New Westminster, B.C. On Wednesday the district announced that the contract to design and build the school has been awarded to Graham Design-Builders LP with KMBR Architects Planners Inc.

District announced Wednesday it has awarded the contract to design and build new school

District representatives (from left to right) Kelly Slade-Kerr, Michael Ewen, Pat Duncan and Mark Gifford join Jean-Jacques Brossier from Graham Design-Builders LP to announce the awarding of the contract for the new New Westminster Secondary school. (New Westminster School District)

It's a project that's been years in the making, but a new secondary school is now one step closer to reality in New Westminster, B.C.

On Wednesday the district announced that the contract to design and build the school has been awarded to Graham Design-Builders LP with KMBR Architects Planners Inc.

"I'm really happy for the students, the parents and the whole community of New Westminster because this has been a long time that they've been waiting for this," said Pat Duncan, district superintendent. 

"This whole journey began in 2003."

Current school almost seven decades old

The current secondary school, the only one in the city, is now almost 70 years old. 

Parents and students have long called for a replacement, citing safety concerns. 

The new school, which will replace the current ageing facility, is set to open in September 2020. (CBC)

Even once funding was announced a year and a half ago, the project remained controversial because the current school is built on top of a former cemetery where Chinese pioneers and First Nations leaders were buried.

Duncan says those issues have been addressed. 

"Absolutely. We've been working very closely with the entire community," he said. 

The new school will be built on the same overall piece of property, but in a different location that he says is not a known burial ground.

Parents and students in New Westminster held a rally on April 10, 2016 saying they've waited too long for the province to deliver on a promise to replace the ageing New Westminster Secondary School. (Deborah Goble/CBC)

"We have a memorialization advisory committee that we're working with as we look past when the new school is built, and then phase two will be the deconstruction and eventually demolition of the old school, and we'll be turning that area into a memorialized area."

New school to open in 2020

The new building is set to open in 2020 and is being designed to house 1,900 students, 50 more than the current enrolment. 

It has a budget of $106.5 million, which will include the cost of deconstructing the old school and building the new memorial area. 

Duncan says its cost makes it the largest school project in the history of B.C.

"What we're planning to build is the best school in British Columbia," he said.

The district says there will be community meetings in early 2018 for the public to comment on the proposed design and community impact mitigation.