Failing grade for Vernon School District office
As the Vernon School District welcomes a sparkling new Vernon Secondary School, its board office is long overdue for a face lift.
Wally Neumann, with MQN Architects, has presented the firm’s report on the condition of the board’s administration buildings on 15th Street.
“The building was originally constructed in 1972 and since then there have been only minor renovations as well as the addition of portables to supplement added staff requirements,” said Neumann.
He said that many systems are failing or have reached their useful life.
The HVAC system is in particularly bad shape, with the roof-top units likely the oldest on any school facility in the Okanagan.
Every other district has managed to replace this vintage roof-top unit, for which parts have not been available for about five years.
“So kudos to John (Tompson, maintenance supervisor) and his team for keeping them running for as long as they have,” said Neumann.
The heating system is so inefficient that many staff members supplement with their own space heaters. In addition, carbon dioxide levels increase under high occupancy levels, while energy is wasted under low occupancy conditions.
“The facility does not meet today’s standards for energy consumption or conservation. It’s not a good work environment,” said Neumann.
Other deficiencies are those of function, where work areas are determined by existing available space and not by functional requirements.
There is a lack of organized and accessible storage space. The poor layout of the office means difficulty in communication between staff members.
The portables that were added were approved by the City of Vernon on a temporary permit, which Neumann said has likely expired and could be rescinded.
“There is also a lack of professional appearance because things that look like they are just temporary from 40 years ago to now shows that investment has not been put into this board office,” said Neumann.
“In addition, there are no washrooms available to staff in portables or in the board room.”
As well, there are a number of B.C. Building Code deficiencies, including the existing floor fire separation, the exit stairwell and handicap accessibility.
“We are a public building so it becomes very important, but because this is an older building, these things have been grandfathered,” said Neumann.
“Access for the disabled to the various buildings could become an issue in that there is either poor or no access for persons with mobility restrictions. This includes washrooms in particular, but even the public entrance does not comply with current requirements.”
And, while there is asbestos in the basement flooring, it is contained and could easily be dealt with during an upgrade.
“Implementation of the renovations will provide significant improvements to the operating efficiencies in the board office,” said Neumann.
“The efficiencies will be evident in lower energy and maintenance costs, but should also improve overall staff efficiency and morale.
“Improved air quality, staff integration, meeting facilities, washrooms and space utilization will be more difficult to measure, but should be noticeable.
“The status quo will leave this facility as the highest energy cost, lowest air quality building in the district.”
Board chairperson Bill Turanski said when Premier Christy Clark was minister of education, she visited Vernon and had lunch with trustees at the board office.
“She said this is the worst board office she’d ever seen,” said Turanski.
“But the ministry hasn’t funded renovations to a board office for about 30 years.”