With yet another school year fast approaching and thousands of kids heading back into the classroom, it is expected to be a busy one for the Sooke School District as it continues to be one of the fastest growing school districts in the province.
This school year, SD62 is bracing for another influx of new students, as its long-range facilities plan recently projected an increase of 4,400 students in the next 10 year, 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 are 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 were added in recent weeks and will be ready for use when the school year starts up again on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 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, which the province helped purchase the land for in December.
A project definition report is currently underway to determine the design, size and cost of building the two schools, which was expected to be complete by the end of the summer. From there, the report will be submitted to the Ministry of Education for funding approval.
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.
French immersion enroling is also increase and the school district is continuing to juggle the issue of increased enrolment as school such as Ecole John Stubbs, approach capacity.
“We knew French immersion enrolment was increasing. It is a juggle for us as our schools are approaching capacity. If there is physical classroom space in a school to make another class we do everything we can to do so,” said SD62 assistant superintendent Stephanie Hedley-Smith.
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