The Ministry of Education announced Thursday it has signed a project agreement with the Vancouver School Board for the long-awaited seismic upgrading of Queen Mary elementary.
The school, at 2000 Trimble St., has been in the planning stages for seismic work for years, and once finished it will accommodate up to 40 kindergarten and 350 Grade 1 to 7 students.
The school consists of an original iconic red brick building constructed in 1914, along with a grey building constructed in 1926 housing the academic block. The two buildings are linked by structures built in 1955 and 1964.
Several options were considered for the project, from full retention to total replacement, but the final plan will see the red brick building upgraded and the rest of the school replaced at an estimated cost of $16.7 million.
The ministry noted in a Nov. 29 press release that one of the most exciting additions to Queen Mary will be a
Neighbourhood Learning Centre (NLC), which will provide various services
to residents. The NLC will feature two StrongStart BC centres and a 663-
square-metre Learning Connections Space. There will also be areas for
performances, enhanced music and art programs, a library and a multi-
Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus’s children attended Queen Mary elementary school — they’re now 17 and 18 years old. Bacchus first raised concerns about the school’s structural safety to the school’s parent advisory committee about a decade ago.
“It really came to my attention looking at the brick building, thinking I don’t think this is reinforced,” she said. “And there really wasn’t much awareness then that it was a high-risk building at risk of serious damage, and even potential collapse, in parts. So it took a long time [for final approval], but it’s wonderful to know we’re finally moving ahead.”
It usually takes years for schools to get final approval on seismic upgrading. Bacchus noted Queen Mary was identified in 2005 as one of the fast-track buildings, which was going to be done in 2008.
“So here we are in 2012 and we’ve been fortunate not to have had an earthquake during that time that caused damage to the building,” she said. “So that’s good news and I’m very happy to see this is happening —I’m happy for future generations that will be able to attend a safe school.”
Bacchus said staff and students “strongly supported” the concept of restoring the heritage building and constructing a more modern new wing, which better meets the needs of students. The earliest the upgraded school would likely open is for the 2015/16 school year.
Education minister Don McRae said in the press release that student enrolment has changed throughout the province in recent years, and one of the provincial government’s key goals is to create schools that provide education to students, as well as services to neighbourhoods. “Queen Mary elementary is an excellent example of how we can revive schools to serve students and local residents,” he stated.