The Sooke School District hopes to receive government funding this spring to conduct seismic upgrades on several schools in Sooke and Port Renfrew.
The district has requested seismic upgrades for many years as part of its annual capital plan submissions to the Education Ministry. It comes as a result of seismic studies conducted by the province.
“This is a preventative measure,” said secretary-treasurer Harold Cull. “The schools are structurally safe right now, but because there is a risk of earthquakes, we want to be able to upgrade them to be able to handle a higher magnitude event if one happens.”
The district ranks applications in order of priority from a seismic risk perspective, and Port Renfrew Elementary School is at the top, followed closely by Sooke Elementary School. John Muir Elementary School sits at number 4 and Saseenos Elementary at number 5.
Cull noted that the amount of funding requested and the work required for each school are only early estimates based on preliminary plans. He said further assessments are needed to determine what the job will cost, how best to accomplish it and what impact it will have on students and staff.
The district asked for $6 million to upgrade Sooke Elementary in 2019 – the latest figure Cull had available – as an example of the scale of the projects. He said they are also proposing two options for the school: a more basic seismic upgrade or, if it makes sense financially, building a replacement, expanded school that would incorporate the latest seismic upgrades.
“When we did Dunsmuir (Middle School]) three or four years ago, we did it in a phased approach,” he said. “We put some portables out, fixed a set of classrooms, moving kids back and forth, with minimal disruption to the school. We would try and do smaller upgrades over the summer when the schools are vacant. It just depends on how much work needs to be done.”
Typically, school districts get word from the province in March when capital plan submissions have been approved.