News

New hospital site in Courtenay causing concern about student safety

While the public hearing to rezone land slated for the new Comox Valley Hospital was going on Tuesday, the Valley's Board of Education was discussing how to keep nearby students safe during and after hospital construction.

Queneesh Elementary School at 2345 Mission Rd. is close to land proposed for the project.

At Tuesday's board meeting, SD71 secretary treasurer Russell Horswill noted district staff have met with the school's Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and decided to create a sub-committee.

"The purpose of that committee is going to be primarily to look at student safety concerns during the construction, as well as the post design," said Horswill, adding the committee plans to meet frequently to stay ahead of the issues and relay information to parents.

District staff have also been meeting with City of Courtenay and Vancouver Island Health Authority staff regularly. Horswill noted the next meeting is planned for Dec. 4.

Trustee Rick Grinham noted he would like to see overpasses at Ryan and Lerwick roads to make the area more safe for students. Horswill said Grinham's suggestion is on the list for the Dec. 4 meeting.

Trustee Janice Caton said she heard there will not be a treed buffer area between the hospital properties and the school property — as originally planned.

Horswill confirmed the information, adding the area was assessed and the risk of blowdown was deemed too high, and the plan is now for no buffer between the properties.

SD71 director of operations Ian Heselgrave later told the Record the area directly next to the school will still have trees because the school is set back from Lerwick Road and is more in line with the college than the hospital site.

He added the site is expected to be cleared early in the New Year, but then no further construction work is planned for over a year until the Request for Proposals process is over.

"So we're going to have a little bit, I'll call it a three- or four-week period of activity, and it'll be idle for 14 months," said Horswill.

He also noted the district has had preliminary discussions with VIHA around establishing a protocol for lockdown of the construction site in case, for example, the school believes a child could be on the site.

"So if ever we lose Johnny or Jane and we're not sure where they're at, and we're worried that they have gone away from the school site and may have been interested in that crane, that we have a mechanism in place to bring the construction to an immediate halt," said Horswill. "So we're starting to probe the protocols now to make sure that we have actions in place to do the best we can to ensure student safety."

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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