Board eyes property sales to fund school upgrades

The Vancouver School Board is considering selling some surplus land for residential development to raise money to help pay for the seismic upgrading of some of its older schools.

The Vancouver School Board is considering selling some surplus land to raise money to pay for seismic upgradingat some of its older schools.

Boardofficialssee it as a way of maintaining the heritage status of many of those schools, while coming up with the millions of dollars neededto make them more resistant to earthquakes.

The board's director of facilities, Les King cited the situation at L'École Bilingue Elementary, one of the many older schools in need of a seismic facelift.

It's a $15-million job — $4 million more than the cost of building an entire new school.

The provincial government would pay $11 million— equivalent to the cost of a new school —but not the full $15 million.Because the school has heritage designation, it can't be demolished.

To make up the $4-million difference, King said, the board is looking at the redevelopment or sale of some of the land at the school.

"In areas like L'École Bilingue, we have sufficient land on that site to develop some residential in conjunction with a partner. It could also be some other educational partnership or some other public sector agency."

Outright sale of the land would be a last resort, King said.

However, trustee Shirley Wong told CBC News the board should not even considerany land sales.

"I can't imagine that any school board in the future, when we need the lands, will be able have enough funds to go any buy any property, noting the way prices have gone up in Vancouver."

The trustees are not expected to make a final decision on development or land sales until fall at the earliest.