The Greater Victoria School District has started looking for a construction management company for a planned $6-million seismic upgrade to Quadra Elementary School.
The project has yet to receive the final go-ahead from the B.C. government, but district officials expect to receive those approvals shortly.
“They’re waiting for us right now,” said Seamus Howley, district director of facilities. “Within the next few weeks, we’ll have the information that they need to hopefully go forward with the project.”
The plan calls for construction to begin in July and take a year to complete. The school, which is rated at high risk of damage or collapse during an earthquake, would reopen to students in September 2014.
Teachers, staff and about 300 students will have to vacate the school during construction and set up shop in the former Richmond Elementary School for the 2013-14 school year.
Richmond was closed in 2004 due to declining enrolment, but has served as a temporary home for students and staff during seismic upgrades at Margaret Jenkins Elementary, Willows Elementary and Central Middle School.
“We’ve been very successful in rotating schools,” Howley said. “It allows us to turn a project that is quite intrusive, that could take up to two years … [and] get it done within one year, and obviously much more safely by not having anybody on site.”
Reducing construction to a year or less helps the district save money, which it uses to offset the cost of transporting students the approximately four kilometres to the Richmond school.
“The busing costs become part of the project costs and the [Education] Ministry has been supportive of that,” Howley said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
The specifics have yet to be finalized, but the bus pickup and drop-off sites would likely be at or near the Quadra school so as to minimize the disruption to students and parents.
The seismic upgrade will centre on Quadra’s original three-storey concrete-frame building, which was built in 1914. A classroom addition constructed in 1962 is also slated for upgrades.
“We’ve done our fair share of older type schools, so we don’t think it’s going to have any new information for us,” Howley said. “It’s intrusive work. There’s a lot of clay-brick walls inside that need to be replaced.”
The district will strive to keep the appearance of the building intact. “We are required to make sure that everything that is done is not visible from the street.”
Elsewhere, Lansdowne Middle School is also undergoing seismic improvements. But the B.C. government has yet to announce support for needed upgrades to 10 other high-risk district schools.
The district’s 2012-13 capital plan, which was submitted to the government in October, identified upgrades to George Jay Elementary, Shoreline Community Middle School and Tillicum Elementary as its top priorities. The government announces each spring whether it will support upgrades to any of the schools.
In the wake of recent earthquake activity, board chairwoman Peg Orcherton urged the provincial government to accelerate the pace of its seismic upgrades.
“When it comes to the safety of our kids … I think we should forget the balanced budget stuff and just get it done,” she said.
© Copyright 2013