'High-risk' Kitsilano Secondary targeted for seismic upgrade

Kitsilano Secondary will be the latest Vancouver school to receive a multimillion dollar seismic upgrade, the Vancouver School Board announced Aug. 30.  
The project, designed to guard the high-risk facility against the next earthquake, amounts to an almost complete rebuild of the school, according to VSB district principal Chris Atkinson. 
“Other than the wall on the north side, the first metre, everything is going to be new,” Atkinson told the Courier. 
It will include a new academic wing, a 350-seat theatre and three new gymnasiums — bringing the size of the school to around 18,000 square metres. The bid to build the school was awarded to Bouygues Building Canada, and construction is expected to begin this fall. The renewal is expected to be complete in September 2017. 
Since 1996, 22 VSB schools have undergone full seismic upgrades — either renovations or complete rebuilds. The province has spent a total of $2.2 billion on seismic improvements to schools since 2001, and the $62.2 million price tag on the Kitsilano Secondary project makes it the largest seismic upgrade to date.
“In Kitsilano, the cost of renovations would have been much higher than the cost of a new school, so they went with a new school,” said Atkinson. Everything besides the facade of the building, which dates back to 1927, will be rebuilt.  
“It’s been an iconic building for a long time,” said Atkinson. “That facade was really important to the community, and the consultation process was successful in keeping that.”
While some schools can be upgraded through less costly and time consuming renovations, the Kitsilano site has always been especially high-risk, and in need of more serious improvements. The Vancouver schools to receive seismic upgrades so far have all been “H1” buildings — those assessed as most dangerous in the event of an earthquake. The plan is to work down through the high-risk schools before moving on to the less-threatened buildings.        
Kitsilano Seondary is at capacity with 1,500 students, and the new building will house the same number. Since there are few open spots in schools on the West Side, students will remain onsite for the duration of construction. The plan is to construct a new building on the southwest corner of the campus, which students can be moved into while other sections of the school are rebuilt. The phased reconstruction also means the Kitsilano secondary project will be the district’s longest-running seismic upgrade.

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