Parkland Secondary won’t be receiving planned seismic upgrades anytime soon after the province has asked school districts across the province to use reserve funds to cover earthquake-related upgrade projects.
School District 63 was well on its way to executing the planned $2 million seismic upgrades for the secondary school as well as a $700,000 upgrade at Cordova Bay Elementary when the change in funding policy pertaining to school seismic upgrades in B.C. came down from the Ministry of Education.
“We’d done all our engineering and design, we were about to go to tender for both projects and we were planning on starting the upgrades next month,” said District 63’s Board Chair, Wayne Hunter.
“We had pre-approval and I had already signed the contract with the Ministry and sent it to them for their approval when they came back to us saying the policy had changed and that we’d have to pay for the upgrades from our capital to supplement.”
Hunter added the school district always aims to add needed upgrades to the schools at the same time as the construction is done for seismic upgrades because it keeps costs lower than treating them as two separate projects. With the change in policy, the school district would have to use reserve funds to pay for half of the total cost of the work.
“They told us we wouldn’t be able to do both projects, to forget one project and throw all the money at the other but that’s impossible.
“We haven’t talked to anyone, not the parents, the staff or the students. We can’t just choose one project over the other without consultation. We need time to adjust and make new plans and then present those plans to the community instead of just making a decision,” said Hunter, who added that the district is disappointed with the way the situation was handled by the Ministry.
“If they had said this six months or a year ago, we would have been able to re-asses the plans. But to spring it on us in a phone call, that’s why the boards are so upset. Right now we’re floundering because we don’t know where the next cost elimination is going to be.”
Hunter said seismic upgrades are at the top of priority list for the board, who voted April 16 to develop a new five year capital plan for the district and engage in consultation with the Ministry of Education, with the B.C. School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA) and with other education partners.
“At this point, the school boards need more certainty. They are very much opposed to the Ministry’s thinking at the moment but we need to work together,” said Hunter.
The Board of Education also requested that the BCSTA and other Boards of Education demand that a task force representing co-governance members be appointed to construct a provincial policy outlying seismic project funding for the next eight to 10 years.