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Seismic upgrades on the horizon for two Comox Valley schools

Lake Trail Middle and Courtenay Elementary schools require seismic upgrades in the near future
Lake Trail is set to undergo a seismic upgrade in the next few years. Photo by Scott Strasser.

More seismic upgrades will soon be coming to two of the Comox Valley’s oldest schools.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Seismic Mitigation Program outlines that upgrades will be required at Lake Trail Middle School and Courtenay Elementary School within the next few years.

Seismic upgrades refer to retrofitting buildings to make them more resistant to earthquakes.

School District 71’s draft for its Long-Range Facilities Plan — which will be sent to the ministry this spring for approval — also acknowledged the need for these projects.

Read More: Space issues highlight Comox Valley schools’ Long-Range Facilities Plan

Ian Heselgrave, director of operations at School District 71, said the projects are still awaiting provincial approval and funding. They will likely take place within the next few years.

“For us, you’ll see them at the very top of our capital plan because for the school district, the most important thing is ensuring our students have a safe learning environment, and seismic upgrades support that,” he said.

Lake Trail Middle School was constructed in 1964. Heselgrave said that initially, the school was listed as having a high seismic risk to only one block. But updated guidelines and further assessments showed the school needs more work done than initially thought.

Courtenay Elementary School was constructed in 1952, with later additions being built in 1960.

The gym at Courtenay Elementary was previously upgraded in the 1990s to make it more earthquake-resistant.

According to SD71, the seismic upgrade for Courtenay Elementary will include “improved north-south foundations, improved roof diaphragm connections, and classroom/corridor walls upgraded to shear walls.”

Heselgrave said more details on the future seismic projects will emerge in the coming months.

“We are optimistic [the province] will get a solid look and we’ll get some news on that in the next few months, which would allow us to hire our professionals to complete the plans,” he said.

GP Vanier currently undergoing seismic project

GP Vanier High Secondary School is currently the only school in the Comox Valley undergoing a seismic upgrade. The $33.8-million renovations, which were approved by the ministry in 2015, are expected to be completed in September 2018.

Read More: Vanier gets approval for seismic upgrades

Heselgrave said the funding for the seismic upgrade at Vanier offered the district the opportunity to improve the school’s educational aspects, as well as its safety.

He mentioned the addition of a new science lab, a learning commons, and collaborative workspaces at Vanier, which will go alongside the structural upgrades.

“The school is undergoing an incredible transformation in phases,” he said. “It’s a complex five-phase project because we have the kids in the school while the work is underway. We’re shifting and shunting kids around every few months to tackle a new part of the school.

“When the cloth gets pulled off the whole thing, it’s going to be fantastic.”

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