The province announced in April that it would fund two new schools in New Westminster - a replacement John Robson elementary school on the former Saint Mary's Hospital site and a new middle school on the Robson site, but the longoverdue New Westminster Secondary School replacement project is still under review because of the site conditions.
The high school site has been plagued with issues - the main one being that it was once a cemetery site, but Jim Alkins, project manager for the new schools, said it was also a dumping ground.
The issues have made some parents consider the current city hall site as a viable option to build a smaller high school (and have two high schools in the city) on the current city hall site - assuming, of course, that city hall would move downtown, perhaps to the new civic centre.
There's absolutely no plan in place for any of this to occur, but still, The Record asked New Westminster's board of education chair James Janzen what he thought of the idea.
Janzen said it isn't "realistic" for the school district to build a new high school on the city hall site.
"The property is not for sale, and it's real-ly not suitable. It's really not big enough," Janzen said about the city hall site. "It's actually, when you look at it, and I have walked around there, a very small site for a high school."
The school would need sufficient space for fields and parking, which the site doesn't have, Janzen said.
New Westminster Secondary School is one of the largest high schools in the province with more than 2,000 students.
The city hall site was the former location of the Duke of Connaught High School managed by the school district. In the 1950s, the city and school district exchanged land on the current high school site for the city hall site and other lands.
The city hall property had been formally conveyed to the city's ownership by the province in a special Act of the Legislature in 1908, which vested the property forever in trust "for the recreation and enjoyment of the public," according to the History of New Westminster's Parks written by local historian Jim Wolf. This trust agreement would likely preclude the city from selling the city hall site for private use or development.
Local parent and school district critic Paul Johansen said he thinks it's a viable option to take over city hall land, if it became available.
"Given the densification going on, if they do in fact move city hall down there, I think they should consider returning that to the district because it was once theirs.
"The children got a raw deal when they swapped it for the city graveyard," he added.
Janzen doesn't rule out the possibility that if the city hall site were for sale, the district might consider buying it.
"If the property became available, we'd always be interested in buying some property because we are always interested," he said.
But he also questioned why the city would even consider ever selling the land.
"If I was from the city's perspective, I would be amazed if they were going to sell property because they don't have a lot of property either, and it would make a wonderful park if they were going to think along those lines," he said.
Mayor Wayne Wright told The Record last November that there was no appetite to move city hall downtown, though it's something he'd like to see happen.
"The city hall has come up several times," Wright said. "I thought it would be great to put it in the civic centre at the top. ... On the other hand, that is a disruption we might not be able to withstand with everything that is happening. It's just not the right time."