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$50-million expansion coming for private school in Shawnigan Lake

Project at St. John’s Academy could see hundreds of new jobs
St. John’s Academy in Shawnigan Lake is planning an approximately $50-million expansion. (photo from St. John’s Academy website)

St. John’s Academy in Shawnigan Lake is planning a major expansion and renovation that will cost approximately $50 million.

In a recent community outreach presentation by Head of School Dave Pontich and the project’s architects, Pontich said the plan is to expand the school from a Grade 4-12 facility to a K-12, which would see St. John’s Academy hire approximately 100 new teachers and another 150 new non-teaching positions.

He said the academy wants to provide an affordable private school option, and provide an opportunity for local students to interact with international students for an enriched multicultural experience.


“Our model involves a school that is open to the entire community,” Pontich said.

“We don’t want to be predominantly an international school, we want to be a community school that has some international students.”

Pontich also pointed out that many of the school’s current facilities are aging and require a lot of work and upgrades.

He said the academy has already spent approximately $2 million on renovations to bring the facilities up to acceptable levels, but they are still inadequate.

“Unfortunately, there has been no major improvements on campus since the 1970s, so we need to look at the buildings’ designs and optimize them,” Pontich said.

“We also want to ensure that our facilities allow us to deliver international baccalaureate programs to the best of our abilities. Classroom space is very limited at this moment and the campus itself is limited. We can’t teach physical education to two classes at one time, and our fitness centre and science labs are in portables, which is a less than an ideal learning environment for our students.”


Pontich said the plan is for the project to be partially financed by bank loans and the school’s internal capital.

He said that, as well as the new jobs at the academy and the construction and jobs related to the expansion project, the Shawnigan community in general will see benefits from the project.

“We want our athletic fields and athletic facilities more open to the public, as well as our media centre and art spaces, and have spaces available for special events like weddings and community gatherings,” Pontich said.

“We’re also considering the possibility of setting up an emergency preparedness centre at the school.”

Pontich said the project is currently going through the required approval processes.

“We recently presented at a [Cowichan Valley Regional District] advisory and planning commission meeting,” he said.

“We hope to have final solutions for both septic and water solutions in the coming weeks. Once that occurs, we hope the process can move forward quickly as we are very tight for classroom space. We currently have wait lists in most grade levels and need the first stage of the process to be approved so we can build more classrooms. Unfortunately, I don’t feel we can predict a date for when we will break ground yet.”

For more information, check out the one-half hour community outreach presentation that is linked to the academy’s website, or if anyone has questions or concerns, contact Matt Jonah, the academy’s director of admissions and marketing, at

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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