Parents skeptical about $584M promise to seismically upgrade schools
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has pledged $584 million to seismically upgrade dozens of dangerously vulnerable schools in the province, but some skeptical parents fear their children will graduate before the improvementsare actually complete.
Clark said the new commitment will improve earthquake safety at 45 high-risk schools, bringing the Liberal party two-thirds of the way to fulfilling its 2004 promise to address perilous structural problems at elementary and secondary school buildings.
“I’m pleased to announce our continued support for our Seismic Mitigation Program,” Clark said at a Monday press conference. “We’re going to keep spending money until every school is as safe as it can possibly be.”
Including the projects announced Monday, the government has either upgraded or committed to upgrading 213 high-risk schools since 2001, at a total cost of $2.2 billion. Another 102 schools must be upgraded by 2020 for the Liberals to fulfill their promise.
The newly-announced $584 million is being distributed over the next three years, but the province said it will be up to school districts to “confirm the scope, schedule, budget and risks” associated with individual seismic projects before they’ll receive approval to move to the design and construction phase.
Parents who have been waiting years for action say they’re not holding their breath for quick results. Among them is Kathy Hobbs, a mother of two young children at the high-risk Bayview Community School in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.
“It frightens me every day, and it’s very frustrating at this point,” Hobbs said. “We felt back in 2004, when the commitment was made, that for sure our school would have been done by now.”
Others say earthquake vulnerability is only part of their problem. Tanya Kyi, another mother of two, said continued underfunding has left Bayview plagued by so many maintenance issues she feels guilty leaving her children there.
“It feels horrible to drop your kids off every morning in a building that you know is unsafe,” Kyi said. “I feel like when I leave them here I’m betraying them, I’m betraying their trust.”
“They have asbestos in the kindergarten classes, my daughter’s Grade 3 classroom smells like mould, the heating system doesn’t work, the bathrooms are disgusting, and the school field is in such bad shape that the kids can’t play soccer on it. And none of that is slated to be fixed.”
Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus agreed, calling the state of maintenance at some schools “a disgrace.” Trustees accuse the Liberals of cutting $100 million from the VSB’s budget since taking over in 2001, and the board is facing another $9 million in cuts this year.
But Bacchus said she’s still pleased by the Liberals’ seismic upgrade funding promise, and that her board will work with whichever party is elected in May in hopes of completing every project by 2020.
“One of the challenges with seismic safety is we don’t know when the deadline is. It’s not like an Olympic project or something – it could be tomorrow, it could be years from now.”
See below for the full list of schools receiving upgrades:
- James Gilmore Elementary - SD 38 - Richmond
- Killarney Secondary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- David Thompson Secondary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Montecito Elementary - SD 41 - Burnaby
- Windsor Secondary - SD 44 - North Vancouver
- Henderson Elementary - SD 47 - Powell River
- George Jay Elementary - SD 61 - Greater Victoria
- Cordova Bay Elementary - SD 63 - Saanich
- South Wellington Elementary - SD 68 - Nanaimo-Ladysmith
- École Phoenix Middle - SD 72 - Campbell River
- Yale Secondary - SD 34 - Abbotsford
- Langley Secondary - SD 35 - Langley
- Delta Secondary - SD 37 - Delta
- Maple Grove Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Lord Tennyson Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Dr. Annie B. Jamieson Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Richard McBride Elementary - SD 40 - New Westminster
- Burnaby North Secondary - SD 41 - Burnaby
- Minnekhada Middle - SD 43 - Coquitlam
- Tillicum Elementary - SD 61 - Greater Victoria
- Shoreline Community Middle - SD 61 - Greater Victoria
- Dunsmuir Middle - SD 62 - Sooke
- Parkland Secondary - SD 63 - Saanich
- École Cote Du Soleil (Powell River) - SD 93 - Conseil Scolaire Francophone
- Abbotsford Traditional Secondary - SD 34 - Abbotsford
- Eric Hamber Secondary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Point Grey Secondary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Renfrew Community Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Sir Alexander MacKenzie Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Waverley Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Edith Cavell Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Prince of Wales Secondary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Templeton Secondary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- General Wolfe Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- David Lloyd George Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- Bayview Community Elementary - SD 39 - Vancouver
- F.W. Howay Elementary - SD 40 - New Westminster
- Stride Avenue Elementary - SD 41 - Burnaby
- Montgomery Middle - SD 43 - Coquitlam
- Irvine Elementary - SD 43 - Coquitlam
- Handsworth Secondary - SD 44 - North Vancouver
- Cloverdale Elementary - SD 61 - Greater Victoria
- Cedar Hill Junior Secondary - SD 61 - Greater Victoria
- Ruth King Elementary - SD 62 - Sooke
- Lochside Elementary - SD 63 - Saanich