The Campbell River School District is one step closer to finding out the fate of one of its elementary schools.
Cedar Elementary School has long been on the district’s list of submitted capital projects, but has never quite made the cut.
The school board has mounted a “consistent and dignified” advocacy effort with the Ministry of Education which chairman Richard Franklin believes has made a positive influence.
“I do believe our chances to renovate or rebuild have been significantly enhanced,” he said.
Franklin opens each school board meeting with remarks and started the Feb. 25 meeting with details from a telephone conversation he had with North Island MLA Claire Trevena.
“I believe that our advocacy has had some success,” he said. “Claire let me know that Education Minister (Rob) Fleming is now very, very well aware of our community’s support for improving the learning environment at Cedar Elementary School.”
The next step involves completing a seismic assessment of Cedar “as quickly as possible.”
If the assessment finds that a seismic remediation is not a good investment due to the condition of the building, it would be logical to build a new school, Franklin said.
“Minister Fleming understands that and would be in support of that if that were the case.”
A seismic review of Cedar Elementary is currently underway and school district spokesperson Jennifer Patrick said it’s expected to be done before the end of May.
In a request for comment from the Mirror, the Ministry of Education said it was making “great progress ensuring all B.C. students have a seismically safe place to go to school as soon as possible.”
The Ministry said that since September 2017, it has announced more than $935-million for seismic upgrades or replacements at 41 B.C. schools, including eight on Vancouver Island with more to come.
The board has asked for money to support work at Cedar before, but it has never materialized.
“School districts submit capital plans to the Ministry in June each year with their highest capital priorities. Cedar Elementary was found to have a high seismic risk in 2018,” the Ministry said. “However, the Campbell River School District has not submitted the school as a priority for seismic upgrade funding from the province at this time.”
Cedar Elementary was included in the school district’s request for capital project funding last year under the Replacement Program, rather than the Seismic Mitigation Program. The district has yet to hear back about those requests. Cedar was also included in the previous year’s capital plan. While funding for a high-efficiency boiler replacement at École Phoenix Middle School, mechanical upgrades at Carihi Secondary and universally-accessible playground equipment at Penfield Elementary were all approved, Cedar Elementary remained off the list.
At the time, trustee John Kerr said that while he was grateful for the projects receiving funding, he was concerned that Cedar wasn’t on the list.
“This board over the last couple of years has made the replacement of Cedar Elementary School, I think, our top priority,” he said. “It has not been addressed…For me, it just doesn’t seem right that we have one of the poorest facilities in the province serving some of the most disadvantaged students in our district. We really hope at some point the ministry would see fit to address this.”
Patrick said the school would be submitted as part of the district’s capital plan in June this year.
“Addressing the state of this building continues to be a top priority for the Board of Education and district staff,” she said.