Construction on the $45 million seismic upgrade to Tofino and Ucluelet’s only high school broke ground this week, on May 19.
Funded by the Government of B.C., the project involves partially replacing the Ucluelet Secondary School and structurally upgrading the Ucluelet Elementary School.
“The enhanced structure will withstand the maximum seismic events that are anticipated. And recognizing that this facility is an emergency response centre, the District of Ucluelet has agreed to provide funding to buy a generator that will be included in the project to provide power in the event there is a power failure,” said school seismic project manager Jim Alkins.
The first phase of construction will involve levelling an area for the new academic block, which will be constructed between the track and Matterson Road and the existing parking area at the secondary school.
Unitech Construction Management has been hired by the school district to complete the project.
“Unitech will bring their site superintendent [Randy Landreville] and they will engage with some other contractors. The first phase will be the striping of the rock outcrop. We are trying to remove some soil,” said Alkins, adding that Unitech has completed about 177 seismic projects throughout B.C.
“It’ll be a fairly slow start and, as we get further into it here, there will be different crews that come on site. The early work right now is to do the site preparation for the new academic block,” he said.
“We recognize there will be periods of noise from these construction activities and vehicles travelling in the area. We have reviewed options and feel we have developed the most efficient approach, which will reduce the construction time and impact on the community. We ask for your patience as we move forward with this important community project,” reads an information bulletin from Unitech site superintendent Landreville.
Alkins said Unitech is bringing about four to five workers for the demolition phase of the project. They are also looking to hire some local trade workers during the summer period.
“Unitech will engage a Covid Monitor to oversee the work activity and strictly enforce the established safe work practices. Local workers will be engaged if possible. Visiting trades will be required to follow safe distancing and proper hygiene on and off the job site,” reads the bulletin from Unitech. “Any employee showing signs of an illness will be required to use their vehicle to go home and self‐isolate until they are cleared by a doctor to return to work.”
Patrick May of M3 Architecture Inc. developed the West Coast themed design concept for the school.
“The existing school is made up of individual blocks with covered walkways between them. The idea in this plan was to repeat that and to take advantage of a fairly large rock outcrop so when you drive in you see that rock and trees that sort of reflects the West Coast in between the two buildings,” said Alkins.
The initial phase of the project will be completed before students return to school in September, notes Alkins. Work on both USS and UES are expected to be complete by Sept. 2022.
“We feel comfortable we can complete the project with the funds that’s been allocated by the province,” Alkins said.
“We’re getting good support from the municipal staff to get things going. We’re pretty happy that it’s moving ahead.”
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said the West Coast is very fortunate that the funding was earmarked for this project before the economy took a downturn due to COVID-19.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a wonderful asset and a real driver that’s going to give more people a reason to live in the region,” said Noel.
He pointed out that two other major projects, the new multi-use path through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Highway 4 Kennedy Hill safety improvements, are scheduled to wrap within the next year as well.
“You get into 2021 and the whole area looks a bit different,” said Ucluelet’s mayor.