Six Vancouver schools getting seismic upgrades during pandemic

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      A half-dozen elementary and secondary schools in Vancouver are still undergoing extensive seismic-mitigation and -replacement construction during the pandemic, although work on all but one of them is not expected to finish before the 2021 school year opens.

      A July 28 B.C. Education Ministry update noted that the six school projects are part of $325 million in spending announced since September 2017 for seismic-mitigation and -replacement work scheduled for a dozen Vancouver schools.

      Education Minister Rob Fleming noted in the release that the current B.C. NDP minority government is accomplishing its seismic-safety goals at a rapid pace. "All parents deserve to send their children to school with the comfort of knowing that if an earthquake hits, students will be protected," Fleming said. "After years of underinvestment in school safety in Vancouver, our government took immediate action to upgrade and replace schools as fast as possible, and we're very proud of the progress we're making. We have doubled the pace of seismic project approvals compared to the last government."

      Premier John Horgan has not ruled out calling a fall election for this year, telling reporters outside the legislature on June 23: “It’s [the election] mandated, by next October [2021]. And so there’s an opportunity this fall. There’s an opportunity next spring. There’s an opportunity next summer. When that happens is not necessarily clear to me today.” 

      Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a July 23 televised COVID-19 briefing that she has been working with Elections B.C. on all possibilities for elections and how the pandemic might affect the process. "We know we have a minority government both here in B.C. and federally, as well as a number of byelections and other municipal elections that are scheduled in the coming months,” she said.

      “So, yes, we are working with them so that we are prepared as a province for whatever comes up, whether it be the fall, next spring, next year, and that elections can happen safely.”

      Five of the six seismic school projects under way are for the following elementary schools: Chief Maquinna (upgrade, completion scheduled for fall 2021); Bayview (replacement, winter 2021-22); Lord Selkirk (upgrade, spring 2021); Sir Matthew Begbie (replacement, winter 2021-22); and General Wolfe (upgrade, fall 2021).

      Lord Byng secondary's seismic upgrade is expected to be completed by fall 2021.

      Vancouver school board chair Janet Fraser.

      "The progress on these projects brings us closer to our goal of having all students in seismically safe schools as soon as possible," Janet Fraser, chair of the Vancouver school board, said in the release. "We are also glad these buildings will serve the school and local communities in years to come."