School board gets a lesson on how projects are prioritized by the province

SD72 board chair explains province's method for selecting and approving capital projects around B.C.

The Chair of the Board of Directors of School District 72, Susan Wilson, recently returned from a meeting of the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) with some clarification from the Ministry of Education on how projects proposed by school districts gain funding approval by the government.

One of the keynote speakers at that meeting was Assistant Deputy Minister Shanna Mason, Wilson told the board Tuesday night, as she outlined the vetting and approval process that proposed capital projects undergo when they reach the ministry.

“She’s a really straight talker,” Wilson said.

“She just lays things out on the table and basically said this is how her department goes about deciding which projects get priority.”

Number one on the list Wilson provided to the board is “Seismic Mitigation,” meaning upgrades to or replacement of current facilities that are at risk should a significant seismic event take place.

Number two on the list is “School Enhancement,” which covers mechanical or electrical upgrades, energy management initiatives, roofing, flooring and the like, which are needed to maintain the value of current assets.

Number three is “Expansion,” which covers projects “in areas of rapid residential growth.”

Further down the priority list are projects that fall under the “Building Envelope Program” like the recent work on the School District Offices on Pinecrest which was part of the fulfillment of a settlement from the “Leaky Condo Crisis” of the 1990s, funding for new buses or funding for response funding for damage “from fire, storm damage or other emergency event.”

That list isn’t set in stone, however, Wilson told the board.

“Sometimes somewhere down the list, something might get approved simply because the timing is right, the funding is right, it can happen quickly…it’s a fluid list,” Wilson said.

Trustee John Kerr pointed out that our district has, in the past, “been the beneficiary” of the fluidity of that prioritization list.

Wilson agreed.

“Because the district has been so good – Kevin [Patrick, secretary treasurer] and Steve [Wood, manager of operations] in particular – at having projects ready to go and having the background work already done, that has benefited us more than once,” Wilson said.

That nimbleness was most recently evident in the last-minute application by the board to have the cost of the Carihi floor replacement covered by the ministry despite the project already nearing completion after the government announced another batch of funding being available.

Wilson said she appreciated that the ministry would take the time to explain how the process works at the BCSTA meeting, “to help us understand how they approach things from their end.”