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Seismic upgrades ongoing at Richmond schools

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:21 PST, Wed February 17, 2021

Seismic upgrades are a crucial element of school safety, particularly when it comes to older buildings. 

Recently, upgrades have been completed at Cook, Tait and Ferris elementary schools and at Boyd secondary. All four projects involved structural upgrades, improvements to wall and floor finishes, and updates to building systems, says board chair Sandra Nixon.

“As a result of these upgrades, the district continues to achieve its goal of providing safe and inspiring learning environments that support the educational journey of each and every student,” says Nixon.

Schools requiring seismic upgrades were identified by the province’s Education Ministry in 2004. This list was updated in 2011 under the provincial seismic mitigation program. Once the ministry supports a project, the district has to obtain approval from the board, and then routes the proposal back to the Education Minister for funding approval.

“Typically, a seismic upgrade involves the strengthening of substructural elements (building foundations and floor slabs) and superstructural elements (walls, columns, suspended floor structures, roofs) to improve a building’s resistance to a major seismic event,” says communications and marketing director David Sadler.

Additional non-structural upgrades also involve ceilings, lighting and plumbing lines, as well as cabinets that could tip over.

Typically, a seismic upgrade takes anywhere from a year and a half to four years, depending on the project’s size and complexity.

“The elements of seismic mitigation are typically the same for a large school, just more area to cover,” says Sadler.

And while upgrades are taking place, staff and students can expect some noise, partial closures of some spaces, and potential relocation of classes to temporary accommodations while their classrooms are undergoing work.

“Site construction management staff and trade contractors have been prequalified and fully understand and adhere to the rules and regulations around working in an occupied school environment in a safe and courteous manner,” says Sadler.

In January, funding was announced for seismic upgrades at two more Richmond schools. Upgrades are also underway at Steves, Mitchell, Tomsett, Maple Lane, and McKinney elementary schools. 

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