Parents of students at Vancouver’s Bayview community school staged a rally this afternoon to bring attention to the elementary school’s need for urgent seismic upgrades.
The rally took place by the 101-year-old school building located on 2251 Collingwood Street, right after a scheduled drill had students across the province rehearsing what to do in case of an earthquake.
“Every kid in the world should have a safe school to go to,” said Gili Avrahmi, one of the parents organizing the rally.
But kids across the province are lacking that. Bayview is just one of the 174 schools in B.C. considered at high risk of collapsing in case of an earthquake.
“If something like what happened in Nepal happens here when our kids our in the building, where will we be then? How will we look at ourselves?” asked Avrahmi.
Parents are especially upset because the province had committed to give vital seismic upgrades to all high-risk schools by 2020, but extended that deadline to 2030 for Vancouver schools.
“Even the 2020 deadline was something we thought should be expedited, but now instead of expediting, they will take themselves another decade,” said a visibly frustrated Avhrami.
The extending of the deadline for upgrades was announced earlier this year in a press release from the office of Education Minister Peter Fassbender.
In the press release, Fassbender blamed the Vancouver school board for the delays.
“There’s no question that the Vancouver school district should have completed well over half of their seismic projects by now, instead of less than half,” reads the release dated March 11.
But most people at the rally were unconvinced by the province’s finger-pointing.
NDP MLA Rob Fleming, who is the Opposition critic on education, was also at the rally. He put the blame directly on the provincial government—and especially on Premier Christy Clark—who he says promised to get the upgrades by 2020 on several occasions.
“To betray a promise is one thing, but to not even have to explain herself is the height of arrogance,” Fleming said.
Penny Noble, who is a Vancouver school trustee and the liaison between the school district and Bayview, says that seismic upgrades are a priority for the school board.
“We’ve made it clear to the provincial government that we want to move ahead with this quickly. We do have the project office in place now, so that should make things move along quicker,” Noble said, adding that the board wants to work together with the province to get the upgrades going as soon as possible.
In the meantime, parents from Bayview are still waiting for answers. Consultations for seismic upgrades at the school were scheduled to begin in February, but have yet to start.
“I’m hoping that every school in B.C. will have their seismic upgrades by the original 2020 deadline,” said Avhrami.