The answer to the question of adding space at École Willows elementary could be in building up, instead of building out.
Last week, the Greater Victoria School District’s operations, policy and planning committee submitted a new report that suggests a possible expansion on the 1960s built single-floor additions.
Willows is one of the only schools in SD61 which doesn’t offer before or after out-of-school care on site and demand has been identified as overwhelming, Walsh said. It does have out of school care run through the nearby Neigbhourhood Learning Centre for up to 120 children attending Willows school.
However, a group of parents rallied against the district’s proposal to place child care portables on the Willows field.
The second floor expansions at Willows is therefore a potential option to the loss of field space.
It would still take years to secure the plans and acquire funding but there aren’t any better solutions at the moment given the space crunch Willows faces, said Mark Walsh, SD61 secretary treasurer.
“Even with the anticipated catchement boundary review, which will address Willows’ capacity concerns, it would open up room for the amenities that other schools have,” Walsh said. “So I would anticipate that if child care was to come to the school it would need that [second floor] addition.”
Because it’s out-of-school-care, and not part of the education system, the district would apply for construction funding through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“We’ve learned that the plans for the 1960s addition included an option to build [an unbuilt] second floor, so it’s believed it is structurally sound to do so,” Walsh said.
Willows has 29 classrooms in total, including the two portables added last year. A swelling student population in the 1950s and 1960s drove expansion at the school. The original brick schoolhouse was built in 1920 with additions in the 1950s that added 10 more rooms and an office. Then in 1964 another extension was built on the with four more classrooms added, followed by a 1969 addition of a library, office area, staff-room and six more classrooms.
Space is at a premium at Willows which can handle about 590 students and has been turning away students each year.
SD61 was recently successful in receiving approximately $4.5 million in funding to support 11 child care studios at Frank Hobbs, Tillicum, Doncaster, Vic West, Willows and Macaulay elementary schools. Construction is underway at Frank Hobbs with site preparation, material ordering and cutting proceeding, said a recent report that Walsh authored.
“We will continue building the remaining child care studios at Tolmie, assisted at times by our students and potentially our CUPE 382 apprentice program,” says the report.
“The green space resonates with us too, and so does the amenity space,” Walsh said.