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Manoah Steves elementary slated for upgrades

By Lorraine Graves

Published 4:55 PDT, Thu April 25, 2019

After a play from the Montessori students at Manoah Steves Elementary came the announcement from B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming that students can look forward to a safer school with construction starting this year.

“Work will be underway when you come back to school this fall and finish in 2021 so the students here in Grades 3 and 4 will be in the building before they graduate from here,” Fleming said to the assembled students and dignitaries.

“This is fabulous news,” said Richmond District Parents Association president Dionne McFie.

During the construction project, students in the Montessori program will move temporarily to Grauer Elementary.

Working with the Richmond School District to determine which schools were most in need of seismic upgrading and updating, the ministry will spend $12.6 million on the Steves project. This school dates from 1965.

“We want to make sure students are safe and protected in the event of an earthquake,” said Fleming.

This brings to five the number of schools in Richmond that the province will fund for seismic and other much-needed upgrades for a cost of about $50 million. Of the 28 high-risk schools identified in our district, three have already been upgraded and another six schools are either underway or committed.

While Steves elementary will lose 24 student spaces in the rebuild, school district administrators and trustees were clear that their long-range planning document is a living thing that is flexible to the changing needs for enrolment in Richmond. So should a substantial increase in student numbers appear, the district is ready for them, one reason the district and board are reluctant to close any neighbourhood schools.

With 20 per cent of the new townhouses and condominiums sold in Richmond going to non-resident buyers over the past four years, there could potentially be many more homes available if the empty housing tax and the speculation tax cause those empty homes to be sold or rented out.

This extra supply could drive entry-level housing costs down sufficiently to entice more families with school-aged children back into our municipality and thus increase our dwindling student numbers.

For today, with the all students enrolled at Steves, principal Gordon Fitt said, “We are grateful.”

Of today’s announcement, chair of the school trustees, Ken Hamaguchi said: “We are on a roll. Things are working well and people are really working together.”

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