Seismic upgrades to Vancouver schools delayed by 10 years

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The deadline to complete seismic upgrades or replace British Columbia’s high risk elementary and secondary school buildings has been extended by ten years.

In 2005, Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal provincial government committed $1.1 billion over fifteen years to renovate 213 high-risk schools across the province in danger of collapsing during a major earthquake.

Since then, the budget has doubled to $2.2 billion due to the complexity of many of the renovation and new-build projects. The government also gave itself a 2020 deadline to complete all the projects, but disputes between the government and the Vancouver School Board (VSB) have significantly delayed the program’s implementation in the province’s most populous city.

All high-risk schools in the province outside of Vancouver will have their high-risk school seismic upgrades completed by 2025. However, 69 high-risk schools within Vancouver city proper – about $600-million worth in upgrades – will not be upgraded until 2030 at the latest.

Education minister Peter Fassbender told the CBC there are disagreements with the school board over how students enrolled at the affected schools will be accommodated as well as the scope of the upgrades performed.

Funding is not an issue according to Fassbender, but the government is at odds with the VSB’s desire to have affected students taught in portable structures rather than moving them to existing schools where there are available spaces.

The VSB also wants deferred building maintenance upgrades to coincide with the province’s seismic upgrades in an effort to reduce the construction disruption students will experience.

A joint project office between the VSB and the government has been created to oversee the completion of the remaining Vancouver school projects.

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