As the population continues to grow on the West Shore, the Sooke School District is once again bracing for an influx of thousands of students in the next decade.
The District’s recently-released long-range facilities plan projects an increase of 4,400 students in the next 10 years, which translates to roughly 350 to 400 new students per year.
“It just keeps on getting bigger, the numbers in 2016 were a bit conservative,” said school district board chair Ravi Parmar, noting the district’s last long-range plan was completed two years ago.
“This is the most affordable area to live on southern Vancouver Island, so we have to respond to that. There’s other districts across the province that are fighting for capital dollars and we want to be one of them.”
Plans are already in the works to accommodate the increase in students by adding five portables – two at Belmont Secondary school, one at Wishart and one at David Cameron elementary schools, as well as one at Journey Middle school in Sooke.
The portables will be added in the next couple of months and will be ready for use when the school year starts up again in September, bringing the total number of portables to 51.
But those are just temporary solutions, said Parmar, noting the district’s top priority continues to be the construction of a middle and elementary school in the Westhills area.
In December, the province announced it would be contributing $23.3 million towards the purchase of a 6.5 hectare site in Langford for the district to build the two schools, however funding for construction has yet to be secured.
A project definition report to determine the design, size and cost of building the schools will be completed by the end of the summer. From there, the report will be submitted to the Ministry of Education for funding approval.
While it’s still in the early stages, Parmar estimated it could cost roughly $40 to $50 million to build a middle school for roughly 700 students, and $30 million to build an elementary school for 400 students.
“They [the province government] know we’re growing, they know we’re adding portables and want to build new schools,” Parmar said.
“We just have to make the case now to government to speed up their process because we’re ready to go.”
At the high school level, the district is still in the design phase for the 600-seat expansion of Royal Bay Secondary school, which was announced in March and will add 21 classrooms and a small gymnasium to the site on Ryder Hesjedal Way.
Parmar expects the district will select a construction company by the end of the year, with an accelerated construction phase beginning in early 2019 and the expansion opening in fall 2020.