Capital plan submission includes seismic upgrades for Gabriola Elementary, NDSS

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The board of trustees for Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools has approved its 2022-23 five-year capital plan proposal, which will now head to the Ministry of Education for approval.

The plan submission includes requests for site acquisition, expansion projects and seismic mitigation, including Nanaimo District Secondary School and Gabriola Elementary.

NDSS and Gabriola Elementary are two of 11 seismic mitigation program requests listed as group one priorities in the district’s submission with NDSS topping the list.

Estimated to cost $120 million to replace, 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.

“NDSS is at the end of its useful life,” the district’s long-range facilities plan states.

“If we apply this year and then they approve [the request] in March, it will take us a year of planning, and then finally, in year four, the build would start,” Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said at the June 9 business committee meeting. “So that’s plenty of time for the ministry to have enough capital to support us.”

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.

“Given that Gabriola is isolated, there may be less supports for the school to draw on in a seismic event,” a staff report on the capital plan says. “Upgrading the facility may provide a community asset in the case of an emergency.”

Staff said the fact it is the island’s sole school has been discussed with the ministry.

Several of the seismic mitigation program requests are small in nature, Walsh said, which the district considers “easily affordable.” Gabriola Elementary is considered a smaller project, “relatively speaking” district staff said in a followup, “but we do have a few that are considered small in budget and scope and could be considered more easily delivered.”

Walsh told the business committee that securing ministry approval for the capital plan requests will require a “full-court press” from staff, elected officials and community members.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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