Poor ratings received for more than 70 per cent of school buildings in the North Okanagan-Shuswap come with a silver lining – leverage for much-needed provincial funding.
At the School District #83 board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15, a long term facilities plan was presented to trustees. The plan is meant to be used as a framework to guide the district in managing its facilities and to support capital submissions to the B.C. Ministry of Education. Initial research for the plan was conducted by Cascade Facilities Management Consultants Ltd. in Langley.
Included in the presentation was a report provided by VFA Inc., a Boston-based capital planning and asset management company, contracted by the ministry. VFA’s report found that 22 of the 31 district buildings did not meet requirements and were rated as poor.
Schools and district buildings were rated on a scale of zero to one, zero being the best possible rating. Sicamous’ Parkview Elementary rated the highest with 0.60 – the threshold between poor and very poor. Silver Creek Elementary and South Canoe Elementary were next with ratings of 0.55. Salmon Arm Secondary campuses, Sullivan and Jackson, both fell within an average rating, while the more recently built school district office building came away with a zero rating.
VFA’s findings were based on engineering-related issues related to such things as boilers, roofs and building foundations.
The fact that Parkview Elementary was determined to be in the worst shape of all district buildings may come as no surprise to some. Following severe rains over the summer, a musty smell was detected by the school’s students and staff which lead to the building being shut down approximately two months for health purposes. Students will be back to learning at Parkview following the November long-weekend, but school superintendent Peter Jory said Parkview is not the only school experiencing weather-related damages.
According to Jory, water leaked into M.V. Beattie Elementary’s gym which is awaiting a floor replacement. Hillcrest and Bastion elementary school’s have also suffered water damage, but Parkview is the only school to report a musty smell as a result.
Along with the building’s age, the cause for the water damage comes down to bad weather.
“We’ve had an extraordinarily rainy start-up for this area of the Okanagan, and I have to say that our buildings aren’t really designed for coastal weather,” Jory said.
Although the buildings’ ratings are less than optimal, Jory said there is a silver lining.
“As much as that is a bit of a problem for us to have older buildings, strategically speaking it is helpful for us because it would help us make a better case for provincial funding,” Jory said.
“Ideally, we’ll be approving a plan that solves multiple problems at once,” Jory said. “We’ve got capacity issues coming our way because enrolment is increasing, so we’ve got to make sure we have space across the district to house and educate our learners.”
Also included in the plan is a 2020/2021 request summary totalling more than $38 million. Projects in the summary include new playground equipment, boiler replacements, new HVAC heating systems and improvements to dust collector systems. The summary also includes the not-yet built Salmon Arm Elementary which takes the bulk of the price tag at $31 million. Jory said the summary and the cost associated is subject to much change.