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SD71 considering replacements and additions to local schools

COURTENAY, B.C. – School District 71 has a plan for the future.

On Tuesday night, the school board presented its Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) at Lake Trail Middle School.

The LRFP outlines projects planned over the next 10 years, such as an addition to Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School, the replacement of Ecole Puntledge Park, and the replacement of the school board office.

Due to growing enrolment at Isfeld, an addition is suggested to accommodate at least 200 more students within the time frame of the plan.

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Enrolment growth over the next 10 years is also expected at Ecole Puntledge Park, and according to the plan, the building’s current state is not acceptable to accommodate extra students.

The school board office does not meet the space needs for the number of employees at the facility. The plan states that as the district grows, the sizing issue will become more of a problem.

According to the plan, Ministry of Education capital funds wouldn’t be available. The plan suggests that local capital and other initiatives be developed to raise funds.

School District 71 Director of Operations, Ian Heselgrave, said there is two other projects listed in the document that rank high on their priority list, including seismic upgrades to Lake Trail Middle School and Courtenay Elementary.

Seismic upgrading improves the structure and integrity of the schools to make the facilities safer for students in the event of an earthquake.

Heselgrave said the seismic upgrades that are currently underway at GP Vanier should be completed by this September.

“The Ministry (of Education) actually designates which schools need seismic upgrading, and they rate them essentially, from a low to moderate to high, and then they come out and want to sort of, hit the schools that are of high risk first, and we’re actually very fortunate here that, with Vanier, which was our most vulnerable school, is almost done,” he said.

“Lake Trail School and Courtenay Elementary are the last two on our list. We’ve been very fortunate that over the last 10 or 15 years that a lot of schools have been seismically upgraded. As events happen around the world, like the earthquake in Christ Church, the seismic team from British Columbia heads out there and assesses what happens and from that information, figure out what has to be done in facilities around the province.”

Heselgrave said the most important thing is ensuring the safety of the children attending the schools in the district.

“This school (Lake Trail) is a great example of that, where there was only a small portion of the school that was perceived to need seismic upgrades, so it wasn’t considered a high risk, except for a couple of classrooms, but as the rules have changed, the school has more areas that need an upgrade, and we look at that as an opportunity,” he said.

The fifth project listed in the document is the disposal of surplus lands. According to the plan, the district owns several non-functional land holdings.

Disposal of these lands will help reduce liability as a landowner and generate local capital for other projects, such as the replacement of the school board office.

The Long Range Facilities Plan is not final. However, Heselgrave said he doesn’t see much changing before the plan is finalized in May and sent off to the Ministry of Education in June.

“I look at these (projects) as ones that would really stand the test of any modifications to the (LRFP), I really think these are super important ones for the district and they would sit as our top five,” he said.

The School District is still seeking feedback from the public on the Long Range Facilities Plan, which can be viewed through this link.

A second information session will be held Wednesday, March 7 at Mark R. Isfeld. It’s open to the public and takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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