The Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils would like to inform you of what we think is a significant issue that emerged from this past Monday's combined SD 61 report that was included in the pack-up (see pp 102-195) for the meeting. This report, "Shops in SD 61: Audit Findings and Status" indicated that district and middle school shops are significantly non-compliant with current health and safety standards and we see these findings as potentially gravely concerning. The report was to be reviewed at the board meeting that night but was pushed back and is tabled to be on the agenda for the Operations Policy meeting on the evening of January 11.

It is important to note that the district is fully aware that its middle and high school shops are not compliant with current health and safety standards. They state, "Shops in School District No. 61 are highly valued and provide relevant and engaging programming to a substantial number of students. Shops are expensive learning environments with many safety and compliance standards, and areas of responsibility. Shops are underfunded in terms of compliance, and a refresh cycle is non-existent. Shops are not yet compliant in today’s context, and require a significant investment to make them so." (pg. 107)

In the report the district says that it finds it a struggle to make sure shops can meet health and safety criteria, limit their liability, and meet operating requirements (pg 102). An estimated $12.9 million is required to bring the shops up to current standards (pg. 106) part of which includes a 12-year future funding suggestion to upgrade dust collectors as a priority(Appendix G, pg. 194). We are in complete disbelief that the shops are in this state as they pose a daily (electrical requiring updating to bring it to code, inoperable/ineffective eye wash stations, etc...) and/or potentially long-term threat (poor air quality caused by inadequate dust collectors) to students. Why has this issue not been raised prior to this week's meeting when the condition of the shops has clearly been non-compliant for years, leaving the children needlessly vulnerable to serious injury. If upgrading is a priority, why are they projecting a 12 year - plan to update essential equipment when this should be done immediately? The district appears reluctant to provide a safe environment for our children yet has a duty of care under the school act to do so.