SD38 considers major HVAC upgrades in 17 schools

Upgrades to HVAC systems could take place over the next two summers in 17 elementary schools.

The Richmond School District has a plan to improve ventilation in 17 elementary schools with a price tag of $12 million.

Portable air filters were put into all classrooms that didn’t have mechanical ventilation earlier this year – paid for by the province – but now facilities staff are asking the board of education to approve $12 million from its capital budget to improve air circulation systems over the next two summers.

In a report to the board of education, facilities staff pointed out portable air filters are just a temporary solution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the school district were to wait for provincial funding to upgrade all the ventilation systems, it could take up to 10 years, the report further noted.

“There is currently a great deal of uncertainty regarding provincial capital funding, due in part to the multiple pressures the provincial government is facing from all sectors as a result of the pandemic as well as recent problems caused by climate change,” noted the report from Frank Geyer, executive director of facilities services.

The school district will look for grants to cover the ventilation upgrades from agencies like BC Hydro and FortisBC.

Six schools would be retrofitted in conjunction with other already approved projects – these are Mitchell, McKinney, Whiteside, Tomsett, Ferris and Bridge elementary schools.

The other 11 elementary schools – Dixon, Blundell, Woodward, McKay, Garden City, Gilmore, Steves, Grauer, Thomas Kidd, Walter Lee and Cook – would be upgraded without being part of an existing project.

Ten of the schools need electrical upgrades, which will cost $1.1 million, and more than $900,000 will be needed for boiler upgrades.

The HVAC equipment and installation will cost about $7 million.

The $12 million project is on the agenda for this Wednesday’s board of education meeting.