The Victoria School District will consider reopening formerly closed school sites such as Richmond elementary in Saanich. Travis Paterson/News Staff

The Victoria School District will consider reopening formerly closed school sites such as Richmond elementary in Saanich. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Richmond, Uplands will need seismic upgrades to reopen

Richmond elementary could be replaced with new building, if needed

If Greater Victoria School District 61 is going to reopen Richmond and Uplands schools, they’d like to first upgrade them seismically.

This is the latest discussion to come from the SD61 operations committee meeting on Monday night.

With the coming growth in the SD61 population, the board has launched a language review committee to anticipate those needs for French and English track students. At the same time there is also a boundary review committee looking into the disbursement of students and how the borders of school catchments – which are now heavily focused on neighbourhoods – should be designated. That includes the contingency of reopening Richmond and Uplands.

So far, Richmond and Uplands have had preliminary assessments and both are graded as high risk, said SD61 secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh.

Figuring out where Richmond and Uplands would fit in with the list of 10 SD61 schools that are currently scheduled for seismic upgrading is a challenge that will need to be sorted, should SD61 wish to reopen either of the schools.

In December the Ministry of Education released a report of all B.C. schools marked for seismic upgrades. In SD61, five are in the preliminary project analysis stage, Braefoot, Cedar Hill, Reynolds, Shoreline and Vic High, while four more are marked as priority schools that will be upgraded next, Arbutus, Craigflower, Lambrick and MacAulay.

“Even with the ministry’s ambitious agenda it’s going to be about a decade to get to [these],” Walsh said.

The estimate to upgrade Richmond is based on recent SD61 seismic projects and, at $7 to $10 million, are high enough to warrant discussion of building an entirely new school.

“Again, it’s very early but if it came to that [$10 million], a new school may well come in, depending on the size, at about the same cost,” Walsh said.

In the meantime, Richmond and Uplands remain as SD61 assets and are not considered schools by the Ministry of Education. It’s how Richmond has been able to function as a swing school, hosting students for a year while other schools were upgraded, such as George Jay and Cloverdale in recent years.

The district also owns the beautiful brick Lampson school in Esquimalt (leased by the French public school district), which was actually upgraded shortly after the codes were updated in the early 1990s, as well as Bank Street, Tolmie (which houses SD61 offices), Sundance elementary, and the Quadra warehouse facility, currently housing the Vancouver Island School of Arts.

Though there were more stringent registration rules put in place this year, SD61 continues to have room at nearly all of its schools to accommodate their respective catchment areas.

Willows, for instance, is down by 30 kids (below 600) where as it drew much attention for turning students away when it was at 625 last year. Oaklands is at capacity, using new portables added in September.

reporter@saanichnews.com

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