School supply donations wanted ahead of Hazel Trembath Elementary students’ return to class

Days after a Port Coquitlam elementary school went up in flames, the city is calling on the province to fast-track the rebuild. Kate Walker hears from the mayor and a parent from the school.

The City of Port Coquitlam is asking for donations of school supplies as the students of Hazel Trembath Elementary deal with the loss of their school in a fire over the weekend.

Donation bins will be set up at the Port Coquitlam Community Centre, Hyde Creek Recreation Centre, and city hall until Oct. 31. Donations of supplies like staplers, pencils and notebooks are requested, but organizers stress food and money are not needed.

Last Saturday, Oct. 14 , Hazel Trembath Elementary School was destroyed in a fire the Coquitlam RCMP has deemed as “suspicious.” The students will be returning to class next week where they’ll be learning at Winslow Centre for the time being.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, whose young son is among the 220 displaced students, says the past couple of days have been challenging.

“We’ve had some really difficult conversations over the past couple of days,” he told OMNI News. “He’s six years old so there’s a lot of questions about why this happened and as a parent, you just do your best and try and answer your children’s questions and be there and support them.”

On Wednesday, the city will be holding a free activity day for the school community, which West says will involve free skating, swimming, and other games for students and staff.

“Just an opportunity to come together and connect and maybe have a little bit of fun and to try and have a positive experience during a time that’s been incredibly difficult,” the mayor said.

“They haven’t been able to see all of their classmates so we thought it’d be a great opportunity for the community to step up.”

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West speaks at a podium with a transit bus in the background
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West at an event on Thursday February 2nd, 2023. (CityNews Image)

West adds that students have been missing out on some key activities during the past couple of days.

“When you’re in elementary school, during the week you get to see all your friends and you have recess and lunch together and they haven’t had that the past number of days,” he said.

However, West is hoping there will be some good that comes out of an otherwise difficult time for the community.

“Even in something as difficult and challenging as this, hopefully, there’s something positive that can come out of this as well. An opportunity to learn about resilience and being able to carry on even when times are tough and be there for each other and watch the community support one another,” he said.

“Even in some of the most darkest and difficult times, there’s always these little silver linings.”

At a city council meeting in Port Coquitlam Tuesday night, councillors passed a motion requesting people write the Ministry of Education and the school district encouraging both to rebuild Hazel Tremblath Elementary School as soon as possible.

As West explains in a post on X, city staff will be asked to prioritize the application to rebuild. Council also asks that any city fees associated with the project be waived.

With files from Pippa Norman and Charlie Carey

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