The replacement of Argyle and Handsworth secondary schools is now top priority, according to a recent report released by the North Vancouver school district.
The 2013-2014 Five-Year Capital Plan is submitted by boards of education every year to the Ministry of Education and ranks projects according to priority. The ministry has specified that a facility's age and condition as well as seismic risk should be taken into consideration when deciding where the money should be allotted.
John Lewis, North Vancouver superintendent of schools, said the higher the level of seismic risk in the event of an earthquake, the bigger the priority for an upgrade.
"The key drivers of the capital plan remain the seismic risk facilities, with funding predominantly going to the buildings that have been identified as High Risk 1 or 2," said Lewis.
In a previous draft of the plan, the replacement of Argyle secondary was third on the list, with school bus replacement being the top priority. But the most recent report has moved Argyle into top spot, followed by the replacement of Handsworth secondary.
Lewis said that once Argyle gets approved for a full replacement project, it will be taken off of the capital plan. For now both schools remain high on the list.
"The reason they're here is the board wanted to make a statement and a commitment that the board's preference had been to replace these schools and still acknowledge that we do have an approved project for seismic upgrade," said Lewis.
"But we wish to keep it in front of the ministry that we're seeking replacement of these two schools, Argyle initially, then Handsworth."
The projected cost of some of the projects has also changed, with the expansion and renovation of Capilano elementary almost doubling from less than $4.5 million to more than $8.5 million, and the seismic upgrade of Mountainside secondary decreasing from $7.5 million to around $5 million.
The full replacement of Argyle is estimated at a cost of close to $50 million and the replacement of Handsworth is estimated at slightly more than $50 million, though Lewis said that number could increase.
"These are preliminary estimates that are refined as the project is approved and proceeds towards its design development phase," said Lewis. "The ministry does not approve a particular dollar amount, they approve a project and you work through a process of about 18 months before you finally arrive at the figure for the capital project itself."
The plan also takes into consideration any demographic change, said Lewis, which is continuing throughout the district.
"We have a declining student population that will start to shallow out, balance, and then will start a small increase in the elementary grades," he said. "But that is projected out for the next 25 years to be very comparable to the student population that we're serving today."
The total cost of all the projects is more than $222 million, which Lewis said is less than the past five-year capital plans that have run closer to $250 million.
The announcement of ministry-approved projects is expected in the spring of 2014.
© Copyright 2013