The public schools have been upgrading their buildings for several years. Why are we only starting now?

Unlike public schools, we have no capital funds available to us, so the enormity of the job is clear. What we want to do now is make sure our schools meet seismic standards. By working with each other and the Archdiocese we will do that.

It’s important to keep in mind that most earthquake-related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects as a result of the ground shaking, or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking. For years, earthquake drills have been a regular part of the school curriculum because many earthquake injuries are a result of people moving during the shaking of an earthquake.

In addition, much of the damage in earthquakes is predictable and preventable. This is why the first step the Archdiocese embarked on was non-structural mitigation, focusing on securing operational and functional parts of the building that might shift or fall during violent ground shaking. These parts include overhead lighting, bookcases and filing cabinets.

In addition, the Archdiocese of Vancouver has spent over $250 million in the past 20 years in the construction of new buildings and the upgrading of older buildings, all of which now meet the new seismic codes in place at the time of their construction. Approximately one-third of our buildings were built post-1992, when the latest seismic codes were introduced.

For instance, Holy Trinity Elementary School has been fully upgraded with new classrooms and gymnasium. OLPH Elementary has had some upgrades undertaken a few years ago and is currently undergoing a major renovation to meet current seismic codes. St. Augustine Elementary School is initiating a complete reconstruction of its classrooms, and Notre Dame Secondary was recently rebuilt.

Is all this really necessary?

Southwestern British Columbia is in an earthquake environment similar to that of the coasts of Japan, Alaska, and Central and South America. British Columbia governments have recognized since the late 1980s the need for ensuring that schools are seismically safe and have developed various programs to improve seismic safety.

But is the spending of millions of dollars on upgrades that might never be necessary a prudent use of money?

This really represents a tremendous opportunity to bring our buildings up to the highest standards – the same as the public schools. Parishes are being asked, within the next two years, to complete engineering analyses and develop plans for renewal of buildings that will serve the school and parish communities as they look forward to the future.

What if my parish isn’t motivated to complete such a major project?

Parish Infrastructure Renewal planning is not optional. It must be completed by Nov. 30, 2015.

Are our buildings safe enough to use right now?

It’s important to keep in mind that all our schools are safe. They are as secure as many people’s homes and workplaces. This initiative is about making them more secure in the event of an earthquake.

Most earthquake-related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects as a result of the ground shaking, or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking. Much of the damage in earthquakes is predictable and preventable. This is why the first step the Archdiocese embarked on was non-structural mitigation, focusing on securing operational and functional parts of the building that might shift or fall during violent ground shaking. These parts include overhead lighting, bookcases and filing cabinets.

For years, earthquake drills have been a regular part of the school curriculum because many earthquake injuries are a result of people moving during the shaking of an earthquake.

When will any repairs or upgrades take place?

Under the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Priorities and Goals initiative, and specifically the Priority of Stewarding God’s Gifts, the Archdiocese is committed to seeing parish infrastructure renewal planning completed by Nov. 30, 2015.

This means that at the end of this period, comprehensive plans will be in place for not only dealing with churches and schools, but also for future site planning in order to best deal with growth and development.

How can I find out how my Catholic school compares with neighbouring public schools?

Keep in mind that there are many high-risk public schools that have been waiting years for renovations, despite more than a billion dollars in government funding that Catholic schools don’t have access to. You can research the status of public schools at www.bced.gov.bc.ca/capitalplanning/seismic.

How does the Archdiocese plan compare with the B.C. government response?

We are following the public school model in terms of making information available. As for the timeline for upgrading schools, keep in mind that many public schools are waiting years for renovations, despite more than a billion dollars in government funding that Catholic schools don’t have access to. Nevertheless, we are mandating that parishes have a development plan in place by November 2015.

Do these results affect the usage of our buildings? Can we continue to let our children go to school in structures that need to be upgraded?

There will not need to be any changes in usage because the schools are safe for current uses. They are as secure as many people’s homes and workplaces.

Buildings constructed after 1992 conform to the latest codes, and many buildings have little or no work required. Most earthquake-related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects as a result of the ground shaking, or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking. Much of the damage in earthquakes is predictable and preventable. This is why the first step the Archdiocese embarked on was non-structural mitigation, focusing on securing operational and functional parts of the building that might shift or fall during violent ground shaking. These parts include overhead lighting, bookcases and filing cabinets.

For years, earthquake drills have been a regular part of the school curriculum because many earthquake injuries are a result of people moving during the shaking of an earthquake.

How will parishes be able to pay for necessary upgrades? Where will the money come from?

Strong parish committees will address just this question on an urgent basis. Those committees will work closely with the Archdiocese of Vancouver which will assist parishes with loans.

We also see this as an ideal opportunity to promote shared responsibility and stewardship of resources in the Catholic community and to prepare development plans for all of our sites. It’s important to keep things in perspective. Over the past 20 years, more than $250 worth of construction has been financed in Archdiocese of Vancouver schools and churches. All of the buildings we currently are blessed with were paid for by the generations that came before us, and future generations will benefit from our efforts.

Is there a chance my school will have to close?

Closing schools is not on our list of options. The Archbishop has said making schools more secure is the first priority. Now it’s up to school and parish communities to develop their infrastructure plans.

 

 


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