Seismic upgrade at Yale will cost district

"Win-win" will see district pay for portables to be used during construction

The Abbotsford school board will have to pick up some of the costs associated with a $9.8 million seismic upgrade construction project at Yale secondary after the Ministry of Education altered its funding arrangements with local school districts earlier this year.

Nevertheless, school district secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuck said the deal is a good one, both for the province and the district – which will get new portables out of the arrangement.

Last fall, the district submitted a formal plan to upgrade Yale – one of four local schools that were identified in 2012 as having at least one “high risk” section susceptible to an earthquake. In the spring, with the cost for seismic upgrades around the province pegged at $1.3 billion, Education Minister Peter Fassbender said districts with surplus funds would be asked to pay up to half of the costs of capital projects.

The policy has since been revised to exclude seismic capital projects.

The Yale secondary project will upgrade two blocks, one hosting administration, drama and music facilities, and the other housing computer classrooms, a home economics room, science rooms and a washroom block.

Seven portables will be installed on site, with seismic work to begin in the summer of 2015 and completed the following fall.

The school district has assumed $1,615,500 of the potential costs of the renovation. It will pay $815,500 for portables, and put $800,000 in reserve for potential additional portable costs.

Velestuck said those portables will replace older models that the district would be needing to replace anyways.

“It’s kind of a win-win for both of us,” he said.

The three other schools mentioned in the report were Aberdeen Elementary, Clearbrook Elementary and King Traditional Elementary. Aberdeen elementary, sections of which date back to 1956, saw its seismic work completed last December, with new stairs and building cladding. Abbotsford Traditional Secondary is also slated to see seismic upgrades begin in the 2015-16 school year.

Velestuck said the district will work through seismic upgrades “in due course.”

Last Thursday, as students and office workers around the province practised earthquake evacuation procedures, politicians ducked, covered and shook their fingers about the long-running earthquake safety project for public schools.

NDP leader John Horgan and education critic Rob Fleming visited Killarney Secondary in Vancouver, one of the high-risk schools the government identified for upgrading in a pre-election announcement in April 2013. They said more than a year later, only three out of 10 projects are underway.

“Clearly, this was just another photo-op announcement from the premier with no follow-through,” Fleming said.

The ten projects listed for 2013-14 were focused in Vancouver and on Vancouver Islands, but the 14-school list for 2014-15 included Yale secondary.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender issued a statement touting the province as a leading jurisdiction in earthquake preparedness, with $2.2 billion spent or committed since 2001 to upgrade 213 high-risk schools.

– with files from Tom Fletcher