All Richmond elementary schools that don’t already have HVAC systems will get them over the next two summers.
In a 6-1 decision at Wednesday’s board of education meeting, trustees decided to go ahead with a plan to spend $12 million of its capital reserve fund for the upgrades.
These upgrades will be done at 17 elementary schools that don’t currently have mechanical ventilation, using funds from the sale of Steveston secondary.
Donna Sargent was the only trustee to vote against using the money for HVAC upgrades, saying the board’s capital priorities are securing a school in city centre and seismic remediation.
In seismic projects, which are funded by the ministry of education, the Richmond School District has used its capital reserve to do extra work in conjunction with the ongoing construction.
But if the funds are used for ventilation, Sargent questioned how this will be possible in the future.
“With all due respect to our staff, I do believe it is either seismic or ventilation,” Sargent said. “The money is the money.”
The funds from the sale of Steveston secondary were originally earmarked to buy a new school site in City Centre, something Sargent said they were told to do by the province.
Sargent said she believes it’s the responsibility of the ministry of education to fund ventilation in schools, and there has been some provincial advocacy for this. Richmond should also get behind this advocacy, she added.
“Is it appropriate just because we have some money – what about other districts? Precedent setting is important to think about,” Sargent said.
The school district expects to need another elementary school in City Centre within 10 years, and it’s estimated cost is $75 million.
In the same board meeting, trustees voted to raise the fees developers pay toward school site acquisition. Trustees raised them to the maximum amounts allowed by the province – in lowest-density developments, the school acquisition fee in Richmond will be $1,000 starting at the end of May.