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More seismic upgrades to come in Delta schools
The Delta School District will receive provincial reimbursement sooner than expected for seismic upgrades scheduled for three schools.
The district’s director of facilities, Frank Geyer, told the school board last week that the province will return the $200,000 expenditure for geotechnical work once it approves and submits it on their capital plan.
Ordinarily, Delta would have to fund its own pre-design work and prepare reports in order to get full project approval, but Geyer said because the work is so extensive for Delta Secondary he has secured early reimbursement.
“What I did was I went to the province and said, ok we know you support the project, we appreciate that and thank you for putting us on the list, but this is too much money for us to have to put up and then have to wait for an approval to get reimbursed,” he said.
Geyer said the opportunity to receive provincial funding is very limited because ordinarily only school districts with increasing enrollment receive capital funds for expansions or additions to schools.
Since 2004, the Ministry of Education has engaged engineers and geoscientists to complete a comprehensive re-assessment of seismic safety at more than 500 B.C. schools previously identified for potential funding under the School Seismic Mitigation Program.
Based on the latest scientific research, improved technology and study of recent major earthquakes around the world, the new assessment, released in May 2012, identified 152 schools with at least one “high risk” building section that need to be addressed with structural upgrades under the program.
On April 8, 2013, the province announced a new three-year plan to address structural upgrades at 45 high-priority schools.
Delta has three schools on the province’s new priority list, including both of South Delta’s high schools and Gibson Elementary in North Delta.
School districts have been asked to determine the project scope and costs for construction, expected to take place in mid to late 2014.
Although the school board approved the capital plan, Trustee Simon Truelove said it’s regrettable trustees don’t input into the most appropriate way to use money to make children safe and upgrade the buildings.
“We don’t get to be on the ground floor talking about how the money should be allocated,” he said. “What we’re told is it’s all about earthquake improvement and that’s the top priority. And no question it’s a priority but it’s not the only priority about safety in buildings.”
Truelove compared the funding allocation to a “gamble” as to whether an earthquake would occur within the lifespan of the buildings designated for seismic upgrades.
“We’re doing something that feels a little more like rubber stamping and I’m just reacting to that,” he said.