Parents and students from Abbotsford Traditional Secondary School filled the Abbotsford School District board room Tuesday evening to call on the district to keep students at ATSS during seismic work. (Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News)

Parents and students from Abbotsford Traditional Secondary School filled the Abbotsford School District board room Tuesday evening to call on the district to keep students at ATSS during seismic work. (Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News)

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Abbotsford Traditional parents happy with new direction on seismic work

School district’s options would keep students on campus during work

Parents of students at Abbotsford Traditional Senior School (ATSS) say they’re happy with the board of education’s plans to keep students on the school site during seismic construction.

The school’s parents have consistently expressed concern about the Abbotsford School District plans for students during the upcoming work, and hundreds attended a town-hall-style event at the school on the seismic upgrades to rally against potentially being temporarily relocated to Rick Hansen Secondary School.

In subsequent school board meetings, parents attended in droves to try to drive home the message that they did not want their children to attend a non-traditional school.

But after a recent school board meeting, parents said they are relieved at the board’s decision.

The parents believed the district’s enrolment projections were flawed and that it hadn’t accurately estimated the cost of portables.

“A bunch of parents worked hard behind the scenes, as you know, researching into the cost of new/old portables, renting portables and having existing portables in the district. We appreciate and are glad they are using more realistic portable costs and now started to look at unused portables which have been available in the district,” wrote parent Bal Dhand in an email.

“We, as parents, are relieved that our kids will stay on site. We feel we can now celebrate our victory to have our kids in uniform, closed campus and the choice of traditional school that our kids chose and us parents chose. So again we are [grateful] of having our kids stay at ATSS during the seismic upgrade.”

The district originally put forward four options to the Ministry of Education, but secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk said two new options were forwarded to the ministry after reviewing figures around enrolment and the cost of portables.

The revised enrolment, which Velestuk said was conducted as part of the district’s eligible school site application work, left the campus below its current enrolment – from a little over 700 now to over 600 by 2033 – but was still higher than previous projections.

That meant that an option presented to the ministry that originally included a $1.8 million cost for temporary accommodations was adjusted to $100,000. That is a substantial decrease in the estimated cost of portables to host students displaced by the seismic upgrades, which would bring the total cost of the project down to $16.4 million.

That option was designated as the least costly choice and is expected to be selected by the B.C. government. However, it does not include further renovations beyond the seismic upgrades.

“The seismic retrofit will outlive the building, meaning that many of the other building systems, whether it’s mechanical or electrical systems or the building envelope itself, won’t last as long as the seismic renovations. So it doesn’t have a good financial consideration for doing that project just in isolation,” Velestuk said.

The school district’s preferred option, which included the full renovations of the building envelope and mechanical upgrades on top of the seismic work, was also revised to remove temporary accommodations.

That plan is estimated to cost $29.6 million and would still keep students on the campus either utilizing four existing portables and/or “swing space” on site.

But the ministry isn’t expected to choose that option due to its cost, Velestuk said.

Two more options – partial and full school replacements – cost $49 million to $72 million and were deemed unviable. Two other scenarios involved demolishing parts of the school and decreasing the seismic upgrades required, but would still be far more expensive than the first option.

The next step is to bring the submissions to the ministry. The district will also be submitting its capital plan to the ministry. The plan will include funding applications for the school enhancement program, which would include about $2 million in building envelope, mechanical and electrical upgrades.

The earliest anticipated start to the program, according to Velestuk, is late fall this year to winter 2020.

Find more of our coverage on the Abbotsford School District here.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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