Thursday, March 8, 2018

Once hot election topic of Middle school replacement, fades from spotlight one year later

Seismic Upgrades? Replacement? The fate of Prince Rupert Middle School
seems to have fallen off the political radar after making for a key election 

One year ago this month, what would become one of the key election topics for 2017 was introduced by North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, as the MLA presented a petition from parents in Prince Rupert asking for a replacement for the aging Prince Rupert Middle School.

The increased interest in the long standing desire for the school replacement, picked up steam just in time to become a recurring theme last year, one that made for one of the backdrops to the North Coast election campaign.

With the topic introduced to the Legislature in early March of 2017, Ms Rice noted at the time, of the main talking point when it came to the PRMS site ... remarking on the  "atrocious health and safety matters and asking when parent's, teachers and children in Prince Rupert could expect to see the much needed middle school"

March 2017 -- Jennifer Rice renews call for replacement of Prince Rupert Middle school

That review for the Legislature coincided with the School District making its own contribution to the discussion, forwarding a letter to then Liberal Education Minister Mike Bernier, a letter that Ms. Rice had made use of as part of her call for action.

March 2017 -- School District takes PRMS replacement quest to Minister of Education

March of last year also saw the delivery of that petition from Prince Rupert residents by the MLA to the Legislature, a document which hosted 300 signatures requesting replacement of the building.

March 2017 -- Petition for replacement of PRMS delivered to Legislature by MLA

The issue heated up significantly at the end of March last year, a visit by the education minister making for a media event in the city and setting the tone for much of the rest of the election campaign.

That as the incumbent Ms. Rice and Liberal challenger Herb Pond made use of their stream of social media options and househeold mailers to put forward their views on the topic.

March 2017 -- Middle school replacement hopes become political cudgel for North Coast election campaign

The school replacement theme would make for an occasional point or comment in the community forums and debates that made up a portion of the campaign, while also filling a fair bit of space on the Facebook posts and the other messaging of the spring election period.

The election campaign proved to be a successful one for the incumbent, with Ms. Rice returned to office and in the midst of the minority government drama of May and June, she sought to make the Middle School party of a confidence issue for the last days of Christy Clark's Liberals calling on Ms. Clark to resign and allow the NDP to move towards replacement of aging schools across the province.

June 28 -- MLA Rice calls for confidence vote in Legislature; seeks progress on PRMS replacement issue

As the days of Victoria governmental intrigue played out, the NDP would come to take power from the governing Liberals, with now Premier John Horgan moving his party over to the government side in July, the new cabinet quickly getting to work on any number of files, including key decisions when it came to the Education Ministry.

August 2017 -- NDP school plans will provide test of MLA Rice's ability to steer home Middle School Replacement

And from that point of taking power on in early July, it would seem that the public commentary on the need for the replacement of Prince Rupert Middle School has since fallen off the political radar.

Seismic upgrades, an option once suggested as not enough by the North Coast MLA ...  now make for the new narrative and NDP mantra it seems, with the Horgan government putting an increased focus on that element of its schools rehabilitation program.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice back in the spring of 2017 was looking
for some good news about a much needed replacement for Prince Rupert Middle School. One year later and now a member of the governing NDP, the MLA it seems
is still waiting for some good news for the school replacement plans.

Towards that seismic upgrade planning, in late December the Ministry of Education had requested two seismic reports from the Prince Rupert School district, as part of their review of the SD52 issues.

December 2018 -- Ministry of Education seeks two seismic reports from SD52 on Prince Rupert Middle School

So far however, as we move comfortably into what is now the third month of 2018, there has been no comment from the Ministry or the MLA as to what kind of progress the seismic upgrade concept has made.

There has been even less of an indication from anyone as to where on the list at the Ministry of Education planning schedule that any potential school replacement program for PRMS might be.

That's not to say that there won't be new schools built in British Columbia, since taking office the NDP government has been busy making announcement, after announcement of impressive school projects soon to be built in many of the larger population centre.

So far the NDP have announced new schools, or expanded and upgraded schools for:

Lake Country
North Vancouver




Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

For Parents, students, teachers and administrators in Prince Rupert, it's seemingly a case of wait by the phone, the Ministry will get back to you ... sometime.

As we outlined on the blog yesterday, Ms. Rice is hosting a Telephone Town Hall this evening from 6:30 to 7:30 PM

Since one imagines that one year later the atrocious health and safety matters still remain, with the facility still in dire need of replacement, it might be time to send Victoria a reminder.

Parents of students at PRMS and the remainder of the School District might want to call in to the telephone forum and bring up the replacement issue as part of the discussion on the night,  hopefully moving it back to the top of the to do list for their representative in Victoria.

For more items related to education on the North Coast see our archive page here.

Notes of interest from Ms. Rice's work in Victoria can be reviewed here.

A wider overview of political developments in the provincial capital is available on our D'Arcy McGee blog, which focuses on national and provincial issues.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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