A closure of the Abbotsford Traditional Secondary School is completely off the table, school board chair Stan Petersen says.
A parent with children at the school questioned Abbotsford School District board of education Tuesday evening about a public information meeting about seismic upgrades at the school, saying rumours of a school closure had proliferated.
However, Petersen said the meeting, to be held Wednesday at 7 p.m., will likely start off with an assurance that, despite the rumours, a school closure is not an option.
However, the simple seismic project, in the works for several years, to upgrade the school is looking more complicated than originally thought after running into several issues, ASD secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk told school board at a recent meeting.
Among the issues, Velestuk listed enrolment, past utilization of the building, the area’s use of schools, deferred maintenance of the building and issues with the building envelope, which “have made this simple seismic project of a school a little bit more complex.”
Velestuk said the costs assigned to the project have now been revised.
The new revisions offer four options from cheapest to most expensive: seismic upgrades only; seismic and building upgrades; partial replacement school; and replacement school. Those costs skyrocket from a total of $18 million for the seismic upgrades to shy of $72 million for the total replacement school.
In between, seismic and building upgrades would run nearly $32 million and partial replacement school would cost almost $49 million. Those costs include $1.8 million to $6.8 million in temporary accommodations for the school’s staff and students.
Velestuk noted that the ministry’s general policy is that districts should choose the lowest-cost option, and where districts determine to select a higher-cost option, the two parties would enter into a cost-sharing program.
That leaves options three and four – partial and full school replacements – off the table, Velestuk said in his report to school board.
He also noted that while seismic upgrades, as the lowest-cost option, would not have triggered a cost-sharing program, it would still leave the school district with a significant funding shortfall for the school.
A total of nearly $4.9 million in necessary building upgrades includes $2.5 million toward the building envelop, $1.2 million for mechanical systems, $400,000 for electrical systems, $600,000 for roofing and $150,000 for flooring.
However, Velestuk noted that there were a few grants that the district could apply for to help fund the repairs, including the annual facility grant, school enhancement program and carbon neutral capital program.
Part of the reasoning for opting out of the more expensive third and fourth options was the declining enrolment at ATSS and Abbotsford Traditional Middle School. At the secondary school, enrolment dropped from 533 to 435 between 2010 and 2018, and that’s expected to drop to 355 in five years.
The ministry does not fund temporary accommodations if there is a nearby school that can accommodate the school, and Velestuk said Rick Hansen Secondary School could accommodate all ATSS students throughout the construction period, anticipated at 18 months.