Earthquake protection stalling Summerland school rebuild

Seismic upgrades on Lower Mainland eating dollars for Interior schools, trustees told

The nearly $3-billion tab to better protect some B.C. schools against earthquakes has likely contributed to a delay in breaking ground on a new gymnasium in Summerland.

“Most of the Ministry of Education’s capital money is going towards seismic upgrading, and a lot of that money is still remaining in the Lower Mainland,” facilities director Doug Gorcak told Okanagan Skaha School District trustees on Wednesday.

“It’s been a real drain on the capital funds that the ministry has had available.”

A proposed $13-million renovation at Summerland Secondary School is the top priority identified in the five-year capital plan Gorcak presented to Wednesday’s school board committee meeting.

The overhaul calls for construction of a new, larger gym, plus a reworking of the change rooms and entranceway between the theatre and school.

Besides improving accessibility for people with mobility issues, the work would also apparently make the facility safer.

“You can’t play a proper game of volleyball in that gym because it’s too narrow. The line for the outline (of the court) is actually up the wall,” said Trustee Shelley Clarke.

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said the gym is also a tough space in which to teach.

“If your class size is 30, you’ve got three badminton courts and only 12 kids can play at a time, so you’ve got a number of kids who are not involved in a class. So I just think it presents a lot of challenges to running effective instruction,” she explained.

“Most of our schools have really good facilities, including gymnasiums. You just go take a look at the (Summerland) gym and you’d see why it needs to be updated. It’s antiquated and out of date for the size of the school.”

Trustee Linda Van Alphen noted the project has been on the district’s capital wish-list for the decade she’s been on the school board.

The school’s gym did, however, have its floor refinished this summer and also received cosmetic improvements as part of the district’s annual summer maintenance program.

Other major projects in Summerland included electrical upgrades, plus new sidewalks and parking lot configuration at Giant’s Head Elementary, and new lockers at Trout Creek Elementary.

In Penticton, a new roof was put on Carmi Elementary, playground equipment was added at McNicoll Park Middle, and the tennis courts were resurfaced at Princess Margaret Secondary. That school also had its geothermal system connected to neighbouring Skaha Lake Middle.

No schools in the B.C. Interior are among the 133 that have received seismic upgrades, according to a list maintained by the Education Ministry.

A ministry webpage for its seismic program states the government has spent, or committed, $2.2 billion to upgrade or replace 213 high-risk schools since 2001, and expects to shell out $600 million more to address challenges at another 104 schools.