Thursday, September 25, 2008

Progress in the Premiers riding, but not so much for the heartland

"I read the announcements too and do wonder when our needs will be addressed,"-- Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer, patiently waiting for an update on seismic upgrades for School District 52...

And while no one begrudges safety concerns anywhere in the province, the lack of seismic upgrading for a number of Prince Rupert schools could perhaps use some helpful intervention by the Premier if he's not too busy.

School District 52 is still waiting for word on whether the much needed funding for the required upgrades here will be coming through this year, though being listed as "in the pool" doesn't give one much hope for a quick resolution to the ongoing issue.

Last year the School District closed a pair of schools on the east side, which will take them out of the inventory now, a move that one would assume could perhaps help to move the District further up that "in the pool" list.
Though if you read this Vancouver Sun article, it would seem that the new policy of the Ministry of Education to upgrade newer and smaller schools, over older and larger ones, may leave the School District out in the cold when it comes to funding for the much needed upgrades locally.

A recent meeting with Deputy Education Minister James Gorman didn't seem to indicate that the issue here will be rectified any time soon, a situation that will have Prince Rupert parents keeping an eye on the newspapers to see where the next upgrades take place in the province and whether any other high profile politicians might be attending the ribbon cutting ceremonies.

The Tuesday Daily news outlined the seismic situation so far and examined what the future may be when it comes to the necessary upgrades.

Schools wait for seismic spending
Local schools in need of upgrades wait to hear if cash will come
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Pages one and three

Even with nearly every school in School District 52 falling short of current seismic standards, it doesn't look as if any Prince Rupert schools will get an upgrade in the near future.

Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer said that while SD52 is "in the pool" with many other districts across British Columbia, there is currently no timeline for when much needed funding might be awarded to undertake seismic upgrades at any of the district's schools.

The news that two schools in Premier Gordon Campbell's riding were at the front of the queue for seismic upgrades and receiving additional funding for a Neighbourhoods of Learning pilot project has been met with a great deal of criticism, and has left many school districts pondering how long it will be before they see additional funding.

"I read the announcements too and do wonder when our needs will be addressed," said Mercer.

"We're dealing with school closures and are interested in what the Neighbourhoods of Learning model will mean too. But I have not received notice of any emergent action on seismic upgrades for us yet."

The structural and seismic repair cost estimates from 2004 were put at a total of more than $7.7 million, with Prince Rupert Senior Secondary accounting for $2.7 million of that total.

Both Kanata and Seal Cove required a combined total of more than $2.3 million. That is money the district will no longer need to allocate now that the schools have been closed. There is still more than $5 million in upgrades needed for SD52 schools to protect them more adequately from the earthquake risk.

And that $5 million does not include the more than $7 million required for mechanical upgrades to district schools, an amount that is estimated to increase by 15 per cent each year that the upgrades are not completed.

Mercer attended a meeting with Deputy Education Minister James Gorman earlier this month where the deputy minister stated clearly that $4.67 billion is budget for education in British Columbia, and that no additional money would be allocated for education.

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