Plans for a turf field at the new south Langford elementary school may have been scuppered after the City of Langford didn’t give its backing by a deadline set by the Sooke School District.
Speaking with the Goldstream Gazette, SD62 board chair Ravi Parmar said the district had an agreement with the previous mayor and council to fund the field, having had several similar arrangements in the past.
Provincial funding provides money for the school to have a grass field, but with previous projects, Langford has funded the upgrade to a turf field with lights in order for user groups to have access outside of school hours.
A grass field costs around $600,000, whereas a turf field with lights can cost between $1 million to $1.5 million depending on the size.
In a pair of letters sent to the City of Langford, Parmar asked to confirm its backing for the field and set a deadline of March 13. Timing is key, with the board of trustees set to meet on Tuesday (March 14) to cast a vote on the final design, which then will be sent out for tender on Wednesday (March 15) in order to make sure the project stays on schedule.
“My biggest priority is ensuring that our school gets built on time and certainly on budget as a responsibility to the province and taxpayers. We need that school online as soon as possible. There are so many families around Latoria and Happy Valley that are having to see their students, even in kindergarten, bussed off to other schools … because all of the schools in that region of south Langford and Colwood area are jam-packed,” said Parmar in an interview.
With no answer coming from the city to either the Jan. 13 letter or a subsequent one sent on March 8, Parmar said the district will likely have to change up the designs to include a grass field. School trustees could vote to use the district’s reserve funds to upgrade from a grass field to a turf field, but Parmar said he hopes that could be avoided, with inflation adding financial challenges.
Switching to a grass field would delay its opening until 2026 in order “to give an alternative sod field time to implant and grow,” according to Parmar’s Jan. 13 letter. Parmar added that heavy rain or drought could cause further delays and making the switch from turf to grass would likely mean bookings dropped between October and April.
Calls for Langford to fund the turf field come at a time of major budgetary strains on the city. With a number of big bills coming due, including the risk of closure at the YMCA-YWCA Westhills, staffing challenges in the fire department, city hall and policing, as well as funds for designing a new police detachment, Langford residents could already be looking at a significant tax hike.
Population growth in the West Shore has seen demand for services soar, with Langford adding two new turf fields in the past year.
The city paid $1.15 million towards the construction of the turf field and installation of lights around the field at Centre Mountain. It also fronted the $650,000 cost of a field at the North Langford site, which SD62 is set to pay back when the school gets provincial funding.
Funding for the new south Langford school was announced by the province back in June. The school is estimated to open in fall 2025 with room for 480 students.
The City of Langford was not available for comment in time before publication.
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