Dilapidated schools: the CAQ misses its target


Éschools tustes: the CAQ misses its target

One ​​of the walls of the Louis-Joseph-Papineau school in Montreal. This property, built in the 1970s, is rated E. Major renovations are taking place this summer.

The summer race against time to carry out emergency work in hundreds of school buildings in Quebec has begun. More than one in two schools are rated D or E, meaning they are in poor or very poor condition (53%). The CAQ fails to reach a target that it had nevertheless taken the trouble to lower significantly during its mandate.

Problems with windows, plumbing, facade and sometimes even mouse infestation: the staff at École de l'Étincelle, which welcomes children from 4 to 12 years old with an x27;autism, has become accustomed, for lack of anything better, to the daily problems of the century-old building that houses them, in the Mile-End district.

“The windows do not allow ventilation adequate, because they open little. Wall tiles fell on the floor in a classroom. There are also holes in the walls and we have a recurring problem with mice,” says Amélie Cayouette, teacher and union representative.

Mouse droppings found in a class at the School of the Spark

There is material damaged by urine and mouse droppings every year. The exterminators come, come back. It's complicated because we can't have mouse poison near our students. They put it in their mouth. It happened to one of my students this year, continues the teacher.

The student raised the sachet containing the poison to his lips but, as he was unable to express himself verbally, it was impossible to know whether he had ingested the poisonous substance. The staff, however, urgently contacted the parents and the Center antipoison du Québec. Fortunately, the child was not ill and no medical intervention was required.

“It is a race against time to have a new school before it is no longer habitable”

— Amélie Cayouette, teacher at École de l'Étincelle, specializing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

We were told that there are three to five years left in the building, worries Amélie Cayouette.

The century-old building housing the École de l'Étincelle in the Mile-End district is rated “E”, or in “very poor condition”. Work is underway to repair the facade of the building in particular.

The greatest risk for the students is having to leave this environment abruptly and being dispersed all over the city in unsuitable premises. It's a kind of sword of Damocles hovering over the heads of stakeholders and students, underlines his colleague Marie Contant, teacher and vice-president of the Alliance of teachers and teachers of Montreal.

The École de l'Étincelle is just one example of 1,931 dilapidated E-rated school buildings across the province.

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This problem is explained by the fact that a significant part of Quebec's public infrastructure was built in the 1960s and 1970s. According to the Treasury Board, these buildings have a useful life that varies between 25 and 75 years.

The only source of natural light at Louis-Joseph-Papineau High School are these small, narrow windows called loopholes. Renovation work should begin this summer to add windows on the side of the cafeteria and the library. The building, built in the 1970s, is one of 1,931 E-rated buildings.

The letters D and E, defined according to a government classification system, are used to identify buildings with a high (D) or very high (E) level of degradation and defect. Treasury Board defines them as infrastructure that is “usually beyond its useful life” and in which “disruptions or slowdowns in service” occur very often.

The Ministry of Education had the objective, under the Liberals, that at least 85% of school buildings in Quebec be in satisfactory condition, that is to say that they are rated A, B or C. A target reduced to 50% by the CAQ during its mandate.

However, only 47% of school buildings have so far obtained the grade of passage, according to the most recent data obtained by request for access to information and compiled by Radio-Canada. A portrait practically unchanged since 2018, when this threshold was slightly higher, at 47.5%.

Sophie-Barat school, also rated “E”, is the oldest school in the Center de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM). It is also its most important renovation and expansion project. The government of Quebec has granted $164 million. But the project is slow to get under way.

It is a scandal because it puts the safety and health of students and school staff at risk. It's saving for higher paying ads, denounces Patricia Clermont, spokesperson for the J'aime mon école publique (JMEP) movement.

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Questioned in 2021 by the opposition parties on his decision to lower the target from 85% to 50%, the Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge had maintained that his government was doing its utmost to catch up the delay created by previous governments.

The minister declined our request for an interview.

In writing, his ministry specifies, however, that this objective has been reviewed following the implementation of a new, fairer, more reliable and more complete evaluation method in 2021.

However, the reduction of the objective from 85% to 50% is included in the 2019-2023 strategic plan tabled in the National Assembly on December 4, 2019. Updates have been were made during the mandate, but they date from March 2022. It was impossible to know why the ministry's communications service refers to the year 2021.

As for the Legault government's inability to reach its 50% target, the department reiterates Minister Roberge's position that even though investments have doubled, the “underfunding” of infrastructure under previous governments makes it hard to catch up.

Catching up is so important that improving the condition of the school building stock will still take time. The challenges are many, writes Bryan St-Louis, head of press relations at the Ministry of Education.

Minister of Education Jean- François Roberge

The 2018-2028 Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) provided for an envelope of 9 billion in the education sector. This amount now stands at 21.1 billion for the PQI 2022-2032, it is argued.

Of these sums, 13 billion dollars are allocated specifically to the maintenance or reconstruction of dilapidated buildings.

The government is taking action to tackle the physical dilapidation of school buildings, assures Bryan St-Louis.

Jean-Pascal Foucault is a specialist management of physical assets. Professor-researcher, lecturer and author of several reports on the subject, he teaches in Quebec and France.

According to him, the classification system for establishing the dilapidation of buildings (letters A, B, C, D, E) is a tool that does not allow the Government of Quebec to have an overview to properly understand the scale of the investments to be made.

Jean-Pascal Foucault, specialist in physical asset management

If you have the facade of a primary school wall that needs to be 30% redone, well that will show in the database as a cost of 30% of the entire wall. But in real life, we are not going to tackle 30% of a facade, we are going to redo the facade 100%, in particular for ecological and environmental considerations, he explains.

This expert believes that at least 10 billion should be provided only for buildings rated E, which represent 744 buildings, or approximately 20% of the surface area of ​​the school building stock in Quebec.

You have to completely rebuild everything that is rated E. It is a phenomenal challenge. It represents a project over 10 years, or about 1 billion per year for reconstructions, he says.

“We are in a logic of &quot ;patching”, whereas in reality one can execute the project with a much more ambitious vision. »

— Jean-Pascal Foucault, specialist in physical asset management

The facade of Louis-Joseph-Papineau school

Montreal tops the list of cities with the most E-rated buildings, followed by Laval. This is not surprising to the spokesperson for the I protect my public school movement.

You can just get the impression that the most populous school service centers, particularly in Laval and Montreal , do not receive the attention they deserve even when there are so many vulnerable populations who frequent them, deplores Patricia Clermont.

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According to her, the policies of the Legault government that promote urban sprawl are at the expense of the refurbishment of schools in the metropolis.

< p class="e-p">When you promote urban sprawl, you have to serve communities, it costs money in roads and aqueducts. However, we must renovate our schools, not build needs, indignant Patricia Clermont.

Patricia Clermont, spokesperson for the movement I love my public school (JMEP)

The Center de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM) and the CSS de Laval both wanted to highlight the progress made over the years, despite the many obstacles to overcome.

We let's open more schools than we close, assures Alain Perron, communications manager at the CSSDM. Approximately nine schools per year are built or expanded on CSSDM territory.

For its part, CSS Laval cites one of its biggest projects as an example: the future site of the Curé-Antoine-Labelle school (currently listed E), the Cunard project.

The two centers say, however, that the investments are not enough to cover all the needs.

Employees install new school lockers at Louis-Joseph- Papineau, located in the Saint-Michel district, an “E” rated establishment. Renovation work including the addition of windows on the side of the cafeteria and the library will begin this summer.

The dollar invested no longer has the same value as that of 2018, explains Annie Goyette, communications manager at the CSS de Laval.

The overheating of building materials in the greater Laval region Montreal, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are all factors that have an impact, she says.

In its master plan presented at the last session of the administration under supervision, on June 15, the CSSDM estimates that it will receive 128 million for 2022-2023, instead of the 175 million received on average for the last three years. However, the CSSDM's material resources department assesses needs at $331 million for 2022-2023.

Sophie-Barat school, also rated “E” , is the oldest of the Center de services scolaire de Montréal (CSSDM). It is also its most important renovation and expansion project. The Quebec government has granted $164 million, but the project is slow to get under way.

For a second consecutive year, projects that were submitted to the Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) were not selected, with the exception of one project. Therefore, no new plans to add space or replace it can be implemented, it is written.

The Ministry of Education ensures for its part be reassessing their investment plans.

The Ministry is to prepare, together with the network, the short, medium and long-term investment strategy in order to better prioritize, better target and better adapt actions for an optimal improvement of the housing stock, writes Bryan St. -Louis.

As part of his research, Mr. Foucault points out that he discovered that beyond a certain percentage of dilapidation, the staff working in a outdated building tends to become listless.

The students of the Sophie-Barat secondary school, rated “E”, must dine “rain or shine” in this marquee, for lack of a cafeteria.

C&#x27 ;is a form of irony that is almost necessary in an environment that is not adequate. Beyond 20% to 30% dilapidation (buildings rated D and E), there is a gradation and, at some point, people no longer complain. They thought so much that something was coming, but it's not coming and they accept their fate, he says.

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In addition to being the largest school service center in Quebec with 115,000 students, the CSSDM has 20% of the province's specialized schools on its territory, such as École de l'Étincelle, specialized in autism.

The building that houses the École de l'Étincelle in the Mile-End district, side “E”, was built in 1912.< /p>

Amélie Cayouette has resigned herself to working in a building whose dilapidation complicates her daily tasks – such as the lack of hot water two months before the end of the school year which is coming up. ;is added to mouse infestations. But if she does, she says, it's because an old building with facilities suitable for her students (with sound-proof calming rooms, playrooms, toilets in the classes, etc.) is better than a temporary move to an unsuitable school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Amélie Cayouette teaches students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

It's a lot of change and, for them, change is difficult. The worst scenario would be a temporary relocation before having a new school. Because we have a school that is so unique, says the teacher in a proud voice.

The latest report from the school. State of dilapidation of schools in Quebec does not surprise her, but saddens her.

It worries me enormously. For me, for our children, for our students, for my colleagues. Everything is so slow and complex, she regrets.


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