Richard McBride school

Richard McBride school in New Westminster is one of 155 public schools in B.C. that's considered high risk in the event of an earthquake but has no current approved plans for upgrades. (Christer Waara/CBC)

The collapse of a school in Mexico City after Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake, leaving dozens dead, is a harsh reminder of the slow progress B.C. is making in its effort to complete seismic upgrades on 346 high risk public schools.

In the recent seismic mitigation program update in August, the province reported 155 schools in earthquake-prone areas that are considered high risk have no scheduled upgrades planned.

Since the program began, $1.5 billion has been spent on upgrades, and 165 schools have been completed. Fourteen schools are now under construction and 12 have construction dates scheduled.

What is your school's status?

CBC mapped all the schools highlighted by the Ministry of Education's seismic mitigation program against an earthquake risk map. If your school is not on the list, ihe government has not identified it as needing seismic mitigation upgrades at this time. 

Zoom out to see the whole province or select your school from the drop-down menu. Can't see the map? Try this link. 

Legend:

  • Red pins = High risk schools requiring upgrades that have not yet been approved to proceed; 
  • Yellow pins = Schools currently under construction or proceeding to construction;
  • Green pins = Schools that have completed their seismic upgrades

The earthquake risk zones are mapped using a gradient between extreme risk (deep maroon) to very low risk (light pink).

Source: B.C. Ministry of Education on seismic mitigation program as of August 2017; Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction's earthquake risk tool.

*Note: Listen to ICLR explain how it determined the earthquake risk for Canadian postal codes.

'It makes me sick to my stomach'

David Black is a parent of two nine year olds attending Grade 4 at Richard McBride school in New Westminster. He's troubled by the lack of action when it comes to improving the school, which has been labelled among the most vulnerable in the province. 

Richard McBride is one of the schools with no planned seismic overhaul date; it's labelled "in business case development stage."

"Seeing what's happened in Mexico and knowing that here in the Lower Mainland, we're likely to have an earthquake of similar size at some point, it terrifies me when I think about that," said Black, who is also president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union.

David Black

Union president David Black is the father of two students at Richard Bride school in New Westminster, which is due for seismic upgrades. (Christer Waara/CBC)

"Knowing that my kids are here and the building is likely to collapse, it makes me sick to my stomach, quite frankly."

Black and his family moved into the neighbourhood nine years ago and quickly began looking into seismic issues at the school.

"We've been watching while the district has asked for capital funds … and in all of the time our kids have been here — our oldest child has now left the school — those funds have never been approved, and so the school still sits here unsafe, today," he said.

Plans to accelerate upgrades

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said the government is taking the issue seriously and plans to add funds to hasten the school upgrades.

"Since day one, after being sworn in as government, we've been reaching out and working with school districts to get their ideas on how to fast track seismic approvals. These are investments that we want to make, in tandem with school districts, to make all schools safe for schools and staff in the province of British Columbia," said Fleming on Wednesday.

"The previous government's record is well known — it was atrocious. After 16 years, barely half of the schools are upgraded," he said.

Fleming didn't offer specific funding details or a timeline.

The education ministry currently has $560 million allocated to high-risk seismic projects in its three-year capital plan.

Of B.C.'s 1,566 public schools, 346 are included in the seismic mitigation program. The province's 353 independent schools aren't included.

With files from Anita Bathe and Richard Zussman