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18 capital region schools waiting for quake upgrades

Oct 31 2012

The B.C. government has yet to approve upgrades for 18 public schools at high risk of damage or collapse during an earthquake on southern Vancouver Island.

The Greater Victoria School District owns 10 of the schools, including three - George Jay Elementary, Shoreline Community Middle School and Tillicum Elementary - that are in the highest risk category.

Saanich has five high-risk schools yet to receive approval, while Sooke has three, according to rankings released by the B.C. government.

There were 140 high-risk schools across the province awaiting approval for seismic upgrades as of September.

Greater Victoria School Board chairwoman Peg Orcherton said the quake that shook Haida Gwaii on the weekend highlights the need for government to accelerate the projects.

"I think they could still put more money into seismic upgrades, because the risk isn't getting lower," she said on Tuesday.

"When it comes to the safety of our kids ... I think we should forget the balanced budget stuff and just get it done."

Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association, agreed.

"The reality is, we're a wealthy country," she said. "There's no reason that we can't afford to do this in a reasonably short time period."

Education Minister Don McRae was unavailable for comment.

The government launched a program in 2005 to upgrade schools by 2020.

Since then, 121 schools have been upgraded, 14 are underway and 34 have been approved, the statement said.

Upgrades are underway at Lansdowne Middle School, while Quadra Elementary, Vic High and Vic West Elementary have been given the go-ahead to proceed.

Orcherton said the district submitted its capital plan seeking more government money to upgrade George Jay, Shoreline and Tillicum.

The district's other high-risk schools include Arbutus Middle School, Brae-foot Elementary, Cedar Hill Middle School, Craigflower Elementary, Lambrick Park Secondary, Reynolds Secondary and Macaulay Elementary.

Seamus Howley, the district's director of facilities, said a high-risk rating does not necessarily mean the entire school is vulnerable.

"You may have an addition on a particular school that has a [high-risk] ranking and the rest of the school could, in theory, be perfectly fine," he said.

In Saanich, the district received approval in May to upgrade Deep Cove Elementary, and is seeking the go ahead to upgrade Cordova Bay and Parklands Secondary.

The remaining high-risk schools in the district are Lochside Elementary, Keating Elementary and the Children's Development Centre.

In Sooke, the district received approval this year to upgrade Sangster Elementary, and is seeking money to upgrade Dunsmuir Middle School, Ruth King Elementary and Will-way Elementary.


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