Shoreline Community Middle School has been in line for seismic upgrading for a few years

Shoreline Community Middle School has been in line for seismic upgrading for a few years

Shoreline seismic not off the list yet: superintendent

NDP’s project ‘cancellation’ calls may be premature

Low enrolment at Shoreline Community Middle School has delayed seismic improvements of the View Royal facility in recent years, but Greater Victoria School District superintendent Piet Langstraat insists the school remains high on SD61’s priority list for earthquake-proofing.

He’s encouraged that continued conversations with the Ministry of Education around the district’s recently submitted long-term facilities plan will help secure provincial approval for a seismic upgrade of the school, sooner than later.

While Shoreline’s future may see the school “right-sized” to match its expected enrolment, Langstraat said, with portions of the building possibly allotted for community use – those discussions are currently underway – it still desperately needs upgrading.

As he describes it, “there is certainly still urgency to the project. When I look at our highest-risk schools, Shoreline is certainly one of them.”

A report given to the SD61 board of education in May by secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh stated that Shoreline has an H1, highest-risk rating in terms of its vulnerability in a major earthquake. It is one of seven schools in the Greater Victoria district with such a rating, and continues to be supported for the completion of seismic upgrading, according to Langstraat.

Comments by NDP leader and Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan last week that politics may have caused the “cancellation” of the Shoreline project didn’t tell the whole story, Langstraat added.

“(The ministry) told us, ‘we really want you to do a facilities plan for the entire district’ and look at the utilization of space within your district, including Shoreline,” he said, noting they are still awaiting word of their plan’s acceptance.

The province has challenged districts to take a long, hard look at their enrolment numbers before asking for funding to upgrade schools that are under-utilized or may close. Shoreline is currently at about 67 per cent enrolment.

Earlier this year the district submitted Shoreline as its next in line for seismic upgrading, having placed it high on the list in previous years. But SD61 was notified in May that the project was not approved due to low utilization of the school (63 per cent enrolment) and the district in general (80 per cent).

With the district having inquired how best to get the project approved, Walsh’s report stated that the ministry indicated a “95 per cent utilization rate for the school now and into the future (five-year utilization rate)” was a reasonable target to shoot for.

But ministry documents uncovered in a freedom of information request by the NDP determined in June that the 95 per cent number only actually applied in urban districts where new schools or expansions were also being requested.

Langstraat said solid projections of the enrolment numbers for Shoreline would be available this week. Those estimates, he said, “will help inform what we do with that building.”

The right-sizing of the school could mean creating a smaller footprint for the building. The Greater Victoria district is also watching what happens in the Sooke School District, where the design of Belmont and Royal Bay secondaries incorporated health services within the buildings.

In conjunction with the community, SD61 has to determine its “vision” for Shoreline, Langstraat said, “and it is incumbent on us to broaden that conversation.”