Lakewood elementary kindergarten teacher Tony Sansom reads a book to a fresh class of kids on the first day of class Tuesday

Lakewood elementary kindergarten teacher Tony Sansom reads a book to a fresh class of kids on the first day of class Tuesday

Extra elbow room for new school year

The Sooke School District started its new school year with about 200 more kids than last year. Good thing they have 27 new classrooms.

The Sooke School District started its new school year with about 200 more kids than last year. Good thing they have 27 new classrooms.

With the introduction of full day kindergarten in SD 62, the Ministry of Education funded new 27 classrooms worth $22 million, including additions to four school buildings and eight modular buildings on six school grounds.

“It’s like adding two elementary schools in one year,” said Jim Cambridge, SD 62 superintendent. “I am so excited about our new learning spaces. They are gorgeous.”

About 560 five-year-olds are entering kindergarten in SD 62 this week. About 9,000 full-time equivalent students are registered across the district, about 200 more than last year.

Last year two-thirds of the kindergarten classes were offered for the full day. “Full-day K was one of the smoothest innovations that’s happened in year,” Cambridge said.

By extending the learning time for kids, he said it gives the teachers more time to work through kindergarten curriculum, although no extra curriculum is added.

“This more space for our children to learn and have a positive learning environment,” noted Lakewood principal Freida Morgan.

“They are learning through play and now they have enough time to do that.” Cambridge said. “Before they had to compress that. Now they have been given the gift of time.”

John Stubbs, Crystal View, Happy Valley and Lakewood elementaries had additions built onto the schools. Sangster, Willway, Sooke and Hans Hegesen received one modular each and Wishart and École Poirier have two each. Modular classrooms are treated as permanent buildings and have concrete foundations and plumbing.

Extra classrooms buys the district about three years before elementary students become cramped for space, Cambridge said, based on predicted population growth rates for the West Shore and Sooke.

The district’s longstanding capital plan to build two new high schools to replace Belmont secondary is before the provincial treasury board, the superintendent noted – as are capital plans from 60 other school districts.

Building two new schools and shifting grade 9s into those schools is key to the district’s plan to make way for a West Shore baby boom.

“The Belmont plan has gone all the way in. Now it’s up to the goverment to decide,” Cambridge said. “Where we are in the priority rankings we’re not sure. We are hopeful to hear something this fall.”

–with files from Edward Hill

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com