Marco Cvitanovic (left) and Julia Widdowson under an earthquake-proof desk at St. Patrick’s Elementary School.

Marco Cvitanovic (left) and Julia Widdowson under an earthquake-proof desk at St. Patrick’s Elementary School.

School upgrades for earthquakes should be complete in five to seven years

For most people, Victoria is an ideal place to live, raise a family and educate our children.

For most people, Victoria is an ideal place to live, raise a family and educate our children.

The city, however, has faults  — seismic faults — and the challenges that arise from its geology are substantial when it comes to ensuring the safety of children in Victoria’s schools.

“For our older schools, when they were constructed, I don’t think that seismic safety was even on the radar,” said Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer of the Greater Victoria School District No. 61.

“Our oldest structures are traditional brick buildings and a few are at that 100 year plus mark. No one was thinking about seismic safety back then.”

The situation fundamentally shifted after a series of southern California earthquakes in the mid 1980s. Studies initiated at that time eventually prompted the B.C. government to examine its own public buildings, including all schools in the province. School buildings were rated on a scale ranging from high to low risk, and the resulting seismic mitigation program identified a total of 342 schools in need of upgrading to ensure student safety.

Since then, the government has spent $2.2 billion to upgrade or replace 214 high-risk schools. The remaining 128 B.C. schools at a high risk rating are still to be addressed.

“The really good news is that in Victoria, we’re ahead of most of the province and our work should be completed in the next five to seven years,” said Walsh.

Since 2001, the Greater Victoria School District has spent $177 million toward completing upgrades on 14 schools. Eight more are slated for repair in order of the risk that they present to students.

The challenges for Victoria’s private schools are different, given they are not eligible for public funds for upgrades.

Some private schools, like St. Patrick’s Elementary School, have had to seek some more innovative solutions to address the problem.

Deanne Paulson, principal of St. Patrick’s, said the issue has been a challenging one.

“We installed some earthquake detection equipment in 2014 in cooperation with UBC and it has already worked to give us advance notice of several smaller quakes, notably one around Christmas of this year. That warning system triggers an alarm that gives the children a chance to duck and cover,” she said.

The early warning capability has been augmented through the purchase of “earthquake proof” desks under which children can shelter in case of a large quake. The desks are of steel construction, accommodate two students each, and come equipped with glow sticks, dust masks, and food and water supplies.

“As great as those preparations have been, we’re pleased to say that the actual structural upgrades will now be taking place,” said Paulson.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay Police are calling on a male described as elderly to come forward after having left the scene of a collision that injured a cyclist Saturday afternoon. (Black Press File Photo)
Police in Oak Bay seek elderly driver who left scene of collision with cyclist

Collision left cyclist with injuries to head and chest

Steve Smith’s image of two sibling adolescent grizzly bears playfighting in the Chilko River in the B.C. Interior earned him best of show at the prestigious Lion’s Gate Celebration of Nature club competition for 2020-21. (Photo by Steve Smith)
Victoria Camera Club captures top spot in prestigious nature and wildlife competition

Saanich Peninsula photographers part of award-winning team

Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbour are part of a corridor that also includes much of urban Saanich that is part of the Greater Victoria 2030 District, a sustainable buildings climate initiative announced recently. (Black Press Media file photo)
Ramping up energy efficiency in Greater Victoria buildings goal of new group

Greater Victoria 2030 District part of North American network of cities working to reduce emissions

Oak Bay High Grade 10 students Oliver Wakely and Alex Joiner with the new scoreboard to soon be installed on the grass turf. Fundraising from the Oak Bay Barbarians rugby alumni and Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay High alumni buy new scoreboard

Scoreboard to be installed on grass field

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Most Read