Vancouver School Board reaches $75-million deal with BC Hydro for West End school site

More than $70 million from provincial utility will help build two new downtown schools

Details of a multi-million dollar deal that soars north of $70 million between the Vancouver School District and BC Hydro was made public Thursday morning.

The district is receiving up to $75 million from the utility company in exchange for the parcel of land underneath Lord Roberts Annex, where a new substation will be built.

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That $75 million price tag allows the district to build two new schools — one in Coal Harbour and another overtop the current Lord Roberts site.

Once the new school in Coal Harbour is built, by 2023, Lord Roberts students will move in, the annex will close and construction on the substation would begin.

A replacement school would be built in one corner of the site — a corner that is not directly above the substation. This phase of the project would take five years, after which the Lord Roberts students would move back to the West End.

“I am pleased our district can move forward in building new schools with space for more students,” board chair Janet Fraser said in a news release. “In the years ahead, VSB will continue to consult and work with our school communities, stakeholders and neighbours during construction of the future schools at Coal Harbour and the Lord Roberts Annex site.” 

Arriving at Thursdays’ deal didn’t come without significant pushback from West End residents, who feared electromagnetic field (EMF) levels would increase in the school once the substation is built.

Vancouver Coastal Health’s chief medical health officer Patricia Daly’s office did an independent assessment of the proposal last year that found that the Hydro proposal could be “accomplished in principle without significant negative public health impact.”

In a 6-2 vote in late June, all trustees except Carrie Bercic and Ken Clement voted in favour of the proposal, while Judy Zaichkowsky was absent and did not vote.

— with files from Tracy Sherlock


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