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B.C. schools not on track to meet 2020 seismic deadline


Time to shake up more money for seismic upgrades.

A new assessment shows another 48 schools across Vancouver still require drastic seismic upgrades that could cost up to $1.1 billion.

"We have to pick up the pace. I don't think we can afford to take that chance with the safety of our schools," said Vancouver School Board chairwoman Patti Bacchus.

The draft report outlines seismic risks and maintenance costs currently facing some of the district's oldest schools, including some identified as heritage buildings. Possible options - seismic-only upgrades, seismic and general facility upgrades or full replacements - and their costs are also detailed.

VSB trustee Allan Wong, who also chairs the district's planning and facilities committee, hopes the report will bring in much-needed funding.

"The report helps us, in concrete terms, show them if we don't do these upgrades, not only does it affect safety standards for students and staff, but the maintenance of our schools goes up as well," Wong said, noting the growing costs of maintaining the aging schools are also a consideration.

In 2005, the provincial government announced $1.1 billion to fund seismic upgrades with the goal of earthquake-proofing all the province's schools by 2020. However, the VSB said that amount is not nearly enough as the 48 Vancouver schools identified by the report alone could cost up to $1.1 billion to upgrade.

Wong is hoping the assessment will set in motion a plan to establish a district office focused on seismic upgrades and a more streamlined process to quickly approve seismic projects and garner the funding needed to meet their deadline.

The call for cash comes just over a month after Finance Minister Kevin Falcon released the province's first quarterly report, which includes a 2011-12 deficit forecast at nearly $2.8 billion.