Families in Richmond can look forward to safer schools, as the Ministry of Education and the Richmond School District are implementing a plan to accelerate seismic mitigation projects.
The ministry is establishing and providing funding to a Richmond seismic mitigation project team to focus on clearing a backlog of seismic upgrades at local schools. Currently, only three of the 28 high-risk schools in Richmond have been seismically mitigated. Richmond School District’s current staffing resources are insufficient to deliver a capital program of this complexity and magnitude.
“Too many families in Richmond have been sending their students to schools that would be vulnerable in the event of a large earthquake,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “That’s unacceptable to me, and to the parents in Richmond. I’m excited to be working with the Richmond Board of Education on a plan that will finally bring Richmond schools up to modern seismic standards and keep students safer.”
Government is addressing the backlog of seismic and capital projects throughout B.C. to ensure students have safer learning environments, and has set a goal of approving 50 projects in 18 months. This includes encouraging collaboration between the Ministry of Education, school districts and local governments to meet ambitious timelines and reduce the time it takes to complete projects. School districts are being directed to expedite the development of business cases for supported projects, and government is taking steps to accelerate the funding-approval process. Project teams, like this one in Richmond, will enable the procurement and construction phases to be accelerated as well.
“Providing safe facilities is a responsibility that we take seriously in the Richmond School District. We are encouraged by the additional funding that we are receiving from the Ministry of Education to help accelerate seismic mitigation projects,” said Dr. Eric Yung, Richmond School Board chair. “The Richmond seismic mitigation project team will afford our school district with additional staffing resources that will help to ensure that seismically high-risk sites receive the necessary seismic upgrades. As we move forward, we will continue to work with the ministry to provide safe facilities for our students and staff to learn and work together.”
The Richmond Board of Education has already taken the step of hiring Frank Geyer, P.Eng., to the new role of executive director of planning and development. Geyer is the former director of facilities and planning with the Delta School District. He will report to the Richmond seismic mitigation project team, and will be responsible for co-ordinating an accelerated seismic mitigation program in Richmond.
“We welcome the news of a new project team being formed to assist with the many seismic mitigation projects in Richmond,” said Ann English, P.Eng., CEO and registrar of Engineers and Geoscientists BC. “B.C.'s engineers and geoscientists are uniquely positioned to provide world-class expertise in the areas of earthquake safety and technology. Public safety is our top priority, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Ministry of Education on the Seismic Mitigation Program.”
The Richmond project team will create the conditions required to ensure safe seats for all Richmond students as soon as possible. The team will focus immediately on getting Hugh Boyd Secondary school and William Cook Elementary school through procurement and into construction.
A backgrounder follows.