Charlene McKay, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools board chairperson, addresses attendees at a seismic upgrade funding announcement June 19. The district will receive close to $19 million from the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

B.C. gov’t providing $19 million for seismic upgrades at two Nanaimo schools

Pleasant Valley, Cilaire schools see seismic work, Rutherford, Woodlands to see displaced students

Cilaire and Pleasant Valley elementary schools will be better equipped to deal with earthquakes following an announcement of close to $19 million from the B.C. government for seismic work.

Parents had expressed concern in the past about the seismic risk at Cilaire and the B.C. Ministry of Education said it will provide $18.8 million for both projects Friday. Seismic construction work is set to be underway in June 2021 and Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district will also use part of the money to renovate the old Woodlands Secondary School site, which currently houses the district learning alternatives program, and Rutherford Elementary School, shuttered in 2018, to serve as “swing spaces,” or places where students can receive instruction during seismic upgrades.

Work at Cilaire is expected to include upgrades to the electrical system, reinforcement of load-bearing walls, joists and frames and Kelsey Bakewell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ manager of facilities planning, said Pleasant Valley will receive upgrades “from the outside.”

“Both schools are going to be getting shear walls put in that’ll just make them more structurally sound,” said Bakewell. “We’re looking at roofing diaphragms, basically we’re going to build them to a life safety point seismically. They’ll be more structurally sound.”

Bakewell said Rutherford requires some cosmetic work and recommissioning of the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems, and Woodlands needs washroom renovations and conversion of a science lab to a kindergarten classroom.

In February, the school district business committee recommended design and management contracts to Herold Engineering and Bradley Shuya Architect Inc. for work, pending approval from the ministry. Bakewell said the district won’t have to go to tender again.

Work is anticipated to be complete by September 2022.

Woodlands and Rutherford will also be used as swing space schools if the district is approved for other seismic upgrade projects in the future, according to Bakewell.

Speaking on behalf of B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming, Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, said parents should have peace of mind when their children are at school.

“Every parent deserves, when they send their child to school, to know that they will be as safe as possible in the event that there’s an earthquake here,” said Malcolmson. “We want them to be protected, and there’s nothing more important than the safety of our students.”

RELATED: Woodlands proposed to house students during Cilaire project

RELATED: Parent raises awareness of seismic risk of Cilaire Elementary

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