Saanich’s Cloverdale school next on seismic upgrade list

Students at Cloverdale Traditional School will bus to Richmond Elementary next year while their own school undergoes seismic upgrades.

The B.C. government, under fire for the slow pace of earthquake refits across the province, announced a project agreement with the Greater Victoria School District on Thursday.

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The government said construction contracts will go to tender in the next few months with work slated to finish the following summer. The project will receive $2.9 million from the province’s seismic mitigation program.

As during previous upgrades, the district will bus students to Richmond Elementary, which was closed in 2004 due to declining enrollment and has been used as a “swing school” for students whose home school is under repair.

Quadra Elementary students re-located to Richmond in 2013-14 while their school underwent a $9-million refit.

This year, Richmond is home to students from George Jay Elementary, which is receiving $5 million in upgrades.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who was unavailable for an interview Thursday, has cited Greater Victoria as an example of how to get seismic projects done, while criticizing the Vancouver school board for its lack of progress.

His own government, however, has taken heat recently for pushing back the deadline for seismic upgrades.

Previously, the Liberals promised to have all schools upgraded by 2020, but Fassbender now admits that won’t happen until 2030 in Vancouver and 2025 elsewhere.

Fassbender has referred to that as a “rationalization” rather than a delay, arguing that many of the projects were more complicated than expected.

NDP education critic Rob Fleming, who represents Victoria-Swan Lake, said the latest announcement is good news for the parents, teachers and students at Cloverdale school.

But there are many others still in schools that would crumple in an earthquake, said Fleming, who has criticized Fassbender and Premier Christy Clark in the legislature for going back on their word.

“The Liberals are taking too many risks with the lives of our kids, while pet projects like a new roof at B.C. Place get funding,” Fleming said.

He said the government should be accelerating projects instead of pushing back deadlines.

“There are more qualified construction firms with seismic building expertise than ever before. There’s an available pool of skilled labour to do these projects in our current economic situation, and it’s never been cheaper to borrow capital to do these projects.”

The province’s seismic progress report for May shows 146 schools completed, 15 under construction and nine proceeding to construction. That leaves 169 projects yet to proceed.

Greater Victoria has completed 12 schools, with George Jay and Tillicum under construction and Cloverdale proceeding to construction. Shoreline, Cedar Hill and Victoria High Phase 2 all have been approved for upgrades. lkines@timescolonist.com

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