Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder
Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools notched some wins in its 2022-23 five-year capital plan submission, but the Nanaimo District Secondary School and Gabriola Elementary proposals were not among them. NDSS is where most Gabriola students go to grades 8 to 12. While the school district learned in March it received the go-ahead to begin planning for a seismic upgrade for Ladysmith Intermediate as well as HVAC upgrades for John Barsby and Ladysmith and accessible playground equipment for Cilaire Elementary, the requests under the seismic mitigation program for NDSS and Gabriola Elementary were not approved.
“Slight disappointment, I would say, that we’re not getting [NDSS],” Mark Walsh, NLPS secretary-treasurer, said at the April 13 business committee meeting. We’ve already been communicating with [the Ministry of Education] that we’re going to prove what efficient effective planners we are in getting Ladysmith done and expect an [NDSS] in the very near future.”
Funding is not yet secured for Ladysmith, rather, the news marks the start of a multi-year process, “but it’s a very good beginning,” Walsh said. Ladysmith is approximately a $25 million replacement whereas NDSS is estimated to cost $120 million, as per the capital plan submission.
School trustees celebrated the news of the Ladysmith go-ahead, but some were confounded by no approval for the district’s largest high school. “The fact that year after year we have not received an [NDSS] despite the fact it was recognized as needing replacement in 2003 is still pretty gobsmacking to me,” Trustee Stephanie Higginson said.
NDSS tops the list of schools in the district with the most square footage assessed to have the highest seismic risk (H1) as per Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s seismic retrofit guidelines. An H1 rating means a structure is at the highest risk of widespread damage or structural failure during an earthquake.
According to 2018 assessments, it would cost approximately $2.5 million to upgrade Gabriola Elementary. Both the gymnasium, built in 1976, and the east classrooms, built between 1976 and 1987, have a seismic risk assessment of H1.
NLPS’s communications director, Dale Burgos, said the school district intends to include the NDSS and Gabriola requests in its 2023-24 five-year capital plan submission.
The school district also received funding to replace three buses in their fleet with electric ones. That will mean that one-third of the fleet, seven, will be electric. Purchasing is planned for June and the buses will join the fleet in January 2023, according to NLPS. The electric buses are not likely to be used on Gabriola as no charging infrastructure is set up on the island, Burgos said.