Construction is set to begin on the $27.2-million seismic overhaul of Lake Trail Middle school.

The upgrade includes replacing everything but the school’s gymnasium, with a modern facility.

B.C. education minister, Rob Fleming, was at the school this morning and calls the announcement “a major milestone.”

“The construction project is underway,” he said. “There will be major construction activity here in January and the doors will open September 2021, so this is just part of a bigger investment – $800 million (province-wide) so far, in seismic projects alone and $1.6 billion on school infrastructure that’s much needed in school communities right around B.C.”

Fleming said the south coast including Vancouver Island is vulnerable to a major earthquake.

“We have to be prepared for when the big one hits and we have a lot of outdated school facilities built to building codes from decades ago that are not sufficient to withstand that,” he said. 

“That’s why Lake Trail and other projects around B.C. are being built to the highest standards and at the same time, we take the opportunity to make them great, new, modernized learning spaces that match the new curriculum that students are enjoying.”

Fleming said investments in keeping school safe in the event of an earthquake has been one of the province’s areas of greatest urgency.

He added that it’s something that’s important to him.

“I’m a parent living in a coastal community with two kids in school, I know the challenges that we inherited as a government from under-investment in the kinds of announcements and projects that we’re breaking ground on today.”

Fleming said he takes his hat off to the design team, district, PAC, and all involved in the consultation of “building the new Lake Trail.”

“I know there is a lot of community pride in this school,” he said. “It’s served generations of families in the Courtenay-Comox region and the new school is going to serve generations to come, and I think it’s going to be even better for students.”

Lake Trail Middle School is also getting a $1.5-million child care centre. 

“Building child care spaces on school grounds helps children have a smooth transition from child care to the classroom,” said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. “It also brings key services closer to home for local families and makes mornings easier for parents who can drop off children of different ages at one location.”

Both of these projects are scheduled to be ready for students by September 2022.

Courtenay-Comox MLA, Ronna-Rae Leonard, said it’s “exciting to join students and teachers to celebrate the progress toward a seismically safe Lake Trail Middle school, and a new child care centre.”

“This is something our community has deserved for many years, and something our community can’t wait to see complete, so students can have a better place to go to school,” Leonard added.

“Today’s groundbreaking ceremony is one more positive step toward revitalizing and modernizing a unique school community here in west Courtenay,” said Ian Hargreaves, board chair, Comox Valley Schools. 

“This project will create a safe school for staff and students; moreover, it will allow for significant improvements in the learning environment.”