Cortes Elementary Junior Secondary principal Brent Wilken (left) says he’s glad to hear the commitment of seismic upgrades from the Ministry of Education as Education Minister Mike Bernier looks on. Bernier made the announcement on Friday morning at the School District 72 offices on Pinecrest Road.

Cortes Elementary Junior Secondary to receive seismic upgrades

Cortes is the last school of six in the district identified to require upgrades, but more could be added later

Minister of Education Mike Bernier came to Campbell River today to announce the funding for School District 72’s final seismic upgrade for the foreseeable future.

Cortes Elementary Junior Secondary will be receiving $2.3 million from the province’s Seismic Mitigation Program to upgrade the gym and classroom blocks of the facility, and SD72 will be chipping in $200,000 out of their annual facility grant to put a new roof on the facility, as well.

Cortes was the last school in the district that was in current need of seismic upgrading, and Bernier says he’s pleased the see the district complete their list.

“This district had six schools that were identified as ‘high risk seismic’ and this is the last of the six, so now 100 per cent of the schools in this district are going to be completed,” Bernier says.

That’s not to say others might not later be found to need upgrades, as well, however.

“We reassess schools all the time,” Bernier says. “Technology is always changing. If you look at the numbers from government, for instance, as we were going through the numbers in the Seismic Mitigation Program originally, we’d said we were going to be finished by 2020, but then when we reassessed our schools, a whole bunch more schools got added to the list as we learned from seismic events throughout the world.”

The new list of schools, Bernier says, will be completed by 2025.

Cortes Elementary Junior Secondary principal Brent Wilken says he’s glad to hear the commitment from the ministry.

“Cortes Island is my home,” Wilken says. “As principal of the school there, I really appreciate the importance of this announcement for my students, my staff and the community at large. That building’s primary purpose is as a school, but to the community, it’s much more than that. It’s also our rec centre, a meeting place, an emergency reception centre and it’s also the physical embodiment of the Cortes’ social and economic viability and its vitality.

“I think I can speak for all Cortes Islanders when I say that we are reassured that the building will continue to be a safe place for learning and other community functions for years to come.”

North Island MLA Claire Trevena was at the announcement, as well, and says while these seismic improvements are certainly welcome ones, the timing of the announcement makes her question the government’s motives.

“It’s important that we get this seismic upgrading, but it’s taken the government a long, long time to do this, and you’ve got to wonder why they’ve waited until now,” Trevena says. “It comes down to political games being played. They should have been investing in education – both in the physical structures and the kid’s education – for many, many years, and they’ve been ignoring it until, not coincidentally, right before an election again.”

Not that it surprises her.

“Sadly, it isn’t a surprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be,” Trevena says. “Good public policy isn’t partisan. When you’re talking about public education, it should be completely non-partisan and it should be about getting things done for the safety of the kids, and for the educational quality they deserve.

“You shouldn’t be playing politics.”

The seismic upgrades on Cortes Elementary Junior Secondary are set to begin next month and be completed next summer.