Vancouver is…not rainy enough? - The Orca

Vancouver is…not rainy enough?

Jody w Glasses 1

School seismic upgrades are necessary – but as some parents are learning, not all facilities are upgraded.

Today “The Middle” stands for Wednesday, the middle of the week when the column hits The Orca, the topic is a bit of a mind-blower.

Hundreds of millions of our tax dollars are going toward seismic school upgrades across BC. No doubt extremely important projects – that come with some seriously flawed budget constraints.

Stay with me here. If you, or someone you know is headed down the path to a seismic upgrade, strap in for a few mind-blowing realities that our community found out far too late in the game.

Simply put: the current system of allocating budgets for crumbling, century-old, schools is broken.

In our community, first we had two-plus years of “public open house” consultation. You know: “meet in the gym and hear the options.”

Restore or rebuild, associated costs, timelines, plans for current students during construction, portables on site or bussed to other schools miles away. It seemed endless.

Finally, we had the decision: our school’s century-old facade would be saved and a seismically sound school would be built around it. The kids would stay onsite in portables during construction; demolition would happen in summer.

Fast forward two months to the last day of school. It was 3pm, kids clearing out desks and lockers, parents scrambling, and a PA announcement tells parents to “wait for an important hand out” and instructed “not to leave.”

The one-pager changed the plan completely. All the consultation was for naught. The school would be demolished, the kids would be bussed to and from the construction site daily, thanks for your input…but, budgets…end of.

Feeling rather frustrated by this 180, with zero recourse, we were all forced to simply go with it.

Every conversation in the schoolyard that day consisted of head scratching over the hours and hours wasted evenings in that old stuffy gymnasium scanning architectural drawings.

Late the following summer it all began. The process was orderly, even rather positive. The asbestos removal and demolition was impressive (if not deafeningly loud). We were getting excited about what was to come, a shiny new seismically safe school!

At completion reality hit: there was zero covered play area. None. Zip. Nada.

So, with the new school as the backdrop this time, more head scratching.

The question was put to the VSB “where is the covered area?” We had an incredible space with permanent hockey/soccer nets where kids played non-stop, year-round.

The answer: not in the budget. Huh?

Not so fun fact: When Vancouver schools are seismically upgraded, there is no budget for covered outdoor play areas. Even if the school had a large covered play space, prior to rebuild.

The kids are required to go outside, rain or shine, for recess and lunch daily – regardless of weather.

In researching how this could possibly be policy, in a part of the world labelled rainforest, I found that “it must rain over six and a half feet, on average, in order for a school to qualify to have a covered outdoor area.”

Vancouver falls one foot short; it only rains five and a half feet per year. *insert eye roll*. There are only a handful of schools in the province that actually qualify.

Kids already spend too much time inside eyeballing tech or gaming rather than running around in fresh air – there is no real excuse for this policy.

Covered areas at schools are utilized year-round by surrounding communities. That our system is rooted in some random rainfall equation is…well…horse hockey.

Obviously, in 2019, there are bigger fish to fry. But watching “our tax dollars at work” in a way that’s not working is frustrating – and especially when all complaints fall on deaf ears.


Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.