Earlier this month the provincial government completed seismic upgrades to a Saanich Peninsula school, but could not offer a definitive date on future upgrades for other area schools.
Rob Fleming, the provincial minister of education, said in an interview with the Peninsula News Review, that 40 seismic upgrade projects creating 25,000 seismically safe seats are currently under development. “In our region, we have five projects currently under construction or having been recently completed in the case of Keating [Elementary] School,” he said.
A report lists seven schools in School District 63 as completed projects under the provincial government’s seismic mitigation program. Keating Elementary joined Claremont Secondary, Lochside Elementary, Prospect Lake Elementary, North Saanich Middle School, Parkland Secondary and Stelly’s Secondary on that list during the second week of January. Seven schools — Brentwood Elementary, Cordova Bay Elementary, Deep Cove Elementary, Keating Elementary Annex, Saanichton Learning Centre, Sidney Elementary, and the South Island Distance Education School (SIDES) — appear as future priorities.
When asked for additional details, Fleming could not say which of those schools would undergo upgrades next, or whether said schools would only require upgrades to their existing buildings or undergo complete replacement, as it has been the case in a number of Vancouver Island schools.
Fleming said the question of which school would undergo what sort of upgrades depends on the number of factors. They include an internal ministry ranking of schools in need of upgrades as well as input from the local school district. A key step in deciding which school undergoes which kind of improvements is the development of a business case plan that considers all necessary technical and engineering aspects, he said.
A spokesperson for the ministry said later in a statement that the district had submitted upgrades to KeatingElementary as well as the Children’s Development Centre as building priorities.
“With Keating’s upgrades completed, and the Children’s Development Centre [in Saanich’s Cordova Bay neighbourhood] being replaced, we can now work with the district on more projects,” it reads. The statement adds that the ministry considers each of the listed schools “future priorities” with the ministry relying on local school districts to prioritize capital projects for ministry funding.
“Ministry staff are currently reviewing capital plans from all 60 school districts ahead of budget 2020, and districts will learn of which projects are supported in the spring,” it reads.
Looking at the big picture, Fleming said two-and-a-half years into its mandate, the current government has hit the milestone of having approved $900 million for seismic upgrades or capital replacement projects. Fleming said the government has approved 14 projects on Vancouver Island alone during the first two years.
“That’s a pace that is three times faster than the old government,” he noted. “So we are starting to build momentum and work with districts like Saanich to get more and more projects planned, approved and under construction.”
Since September 2017, the provincial government has announced more than $1.7 billion in school capital funding, including nearly $900 million for seismic upgrades or replacement. Last year’s budget included $2.7 billion for school capital investments, including $791 million for seismic upgrades at high-risk schools across B.C.
Fleming also said that the government continuously incorporates the latest research from seismic events into its own planning and construction.
Fleming had said earlier that the upgrades to Keating Elementary also added 100 new spaces to the school.
“We sort of celebrated a milestone last week with the completion of Keating Elementary, which was not just an opportunity to make that school safe in the event of an earthquake, but also to meet some of the enrolment expansion and growth that we are seeing in the district,” he said.
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