The Vancouver School Board’s search for a centrally located site for portables to accommodate students from schools undergoing seismic upgrading appears to be over.
The district is ending its lease with the Khalsa school at 5987 Prince Albert St. with the intention of transforming the property into swing space for VSB use.
The Khalsa school has leased the property since the early 1990s and installed 11 portables. Annual rent for the site was just over $75,000. The school’s lease with the VSB ends July 31, 2013. It had been from year-to-year recently.
The VSB will install 25 portables at a cost of $3 million — an expense that’s been worked into seismic project costs.
The portables will house as many as 485 students, according to district spokesman Kurt Heinrich.
“The immediate schools that could benefit — and it is a could because we need to do community consultation — are seismically supported schools by the ministry: Ecole Bilingue, John Oliver secondary, Kingsford Smith elementary, Weir elementary and Fleming elementary,” Heinrich said. While the board will hold consultation, it has the final say.
L’Ecole Bilingue, at 1166 West 14 Ave., is likely the first school that could take advantage of the swing space.
It’s slated for seismic upgrading, which could take as long as two years to complete, and its site at West 14th and Alder Street is not very large, so it would be difficult to install portables on the property during construction.
During some seismic upgrading projects, such as one done recently at Laura Secord elementary, the grounds were large enough to accommodate portables but play space was sacrificed.
Heinrich said the VSB is waiting for approval from the Ministry of Education to proceed with seismic upgrading at L’Ecole Bilingue.
“L’Ecole Bilingue’s [parent advisory committee] has expressed an interest in moving forward with a new school and are supportive of a swing space,” he said.
An elementary school once stood on the swing space site but was destroyed in a fire save for its gymnasium and a few office spaces. Students and staff who move into the swing space will be able to use those facilities.
The Ministry of Education has agreed to cover busing costs to the site from the students’ home school.
If John Oliver secondary eventually uses the swing space, the VSB would proceed with construction in phases since there won’t be enough room in the portables to accommodate the entire student body at the same time, according to Heinrich.
Bill Ostrom, manager of VSB operations, noted there’s also an artificial turf field across the road at Memorial South Park.
“If you look geographically, [the swing space site is] almost the centre of the district and it’s really good for the next few projects that we’re hoping to get done,” Ostrom said.
Ostrom suspects school staff, students and their families will be satisfied with the location.
“If you have a swing space, it cuts the time of your construction project way down unless you’re a facility with room enough to put in all those portables and still have a playground,” he said.
“But when you look at Laura Secord, they took up virtually the entire playground with portables so they went for the entire project without a playground — it’s not desirable. Most school communities, I think, would probably opt to go somewhere for a year or two while the project is underway and then go back into a nice finished school.”