Interactive: Calgary public school upkeep approaching a 'critical intersection'
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Dozens of Calgary public schools will stare down "significant deficiencies" in key operational systems and building upkeep in the years ahead, suggests an analysis of provincial ratings.
Metro reviewed the current and projected Renewal Capital Asset Planning Process (RECAPP) ratings for Calgary Board of Education facilities to get a sense of the struggles associated with an infrastructure backlog the organization says stands at roughly $920 million.
RECAPP assessments are carried out by the province on each board-owned building every five years.
The CBE last published its current RECAPP ratings in 2012 as part of a 10-year outlook on student accommodation. In that report, the majority of schools were rated "A" for acceptable. Only one site, Bowness High School, was given the lower-tier grade of "M" for marginal.
Bowness has since been approved for a career-and-technology-focused facelift that could cost up to $20 million.
But other sites appear headed towards a similar state as the 10-year projected RECAPP ratings indicate 72 CBE sites will soon be rated marginal. By its own definitions, a marginal school "meets minimum requirements; has significant deficiencies. May have high operating/maintenance costs."
When informed the findings, Joy Bowen-Eyre, CBE trustee chair, said her organization is coming to a "critical intersection" on capital infrastructure.
"We can't afford to lose 72 schools — we need the space," she said, later adding, "It's not just about getting the new schools, it's about modernizing and making sure the maintenance is up to par for the other schools."
Viscount's current RECAPP rating is acceptable, but provincial officials have said it's due for another look over in 2015, providing it's still open.
Bowen-Eyre said the provincial funding for infrastructure is the primary problem. Provincewide, Alberta Education plans to supply boards with $100 million for upkeep this fall, a jump of more than $22 million over 2013-14 levels but only $1.6 million more than was offered in 2012-13.
In 2013, the CBE pulled in $14.6 million for infrastructure renewal, a drop of 23 per cent over the year prior. In the meantime, board officials estimated they needed $23 million just to keep pace.
Bob Anderson, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local, which represents 700 custodial workers, said he believes similar issues will pop up at many other buildings erected 50 or more years ago. Anderson said the roofing material used in that construction era requires a great deal of maintenance and his members are stretched too thin as it is.
"We haven't found anything that causing us to be alarmed or take any action yet, but the fear is this stuff is out there," Anderson said.
"A billion dollars in deferred maintenance — it has to be there."