Count Ravi Parmar among those who are happy to see another year marred by the pandemic finally fading away in the rear-view mirror.
“It’s been a challenging year for many,” said Parmar, Sooke School District education board chair. “But like many people, I continue to be amazed by the amazing work our students, families, and teachers do.
“We welcomed a new board this year (following the municipal elections in November). It’s the most diverse board in the district’s history and includes Russ Chipps, probably the first Indigenous chief in Canada to be elected to a school board.”
Parmar said many trustees on the board are young parents, and five of the seven trustees are Sooke School District graduates.
The board got off to a busy start, quickly reaffirming support for the district’s new SOGI 123 program, which Parmar said is the first of its kind in the province.
The program’s goals are to provide leadership on the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to ensure an inclusive learning environment for sexual minorities, transgender, and gender non-conforming students.
“Our priorities for the next four years are honouring students’ voices, fostering the creation of a safe, inclusive learning environment for all students, and building new schools,” Parmar said. “We’re already working on those.”
He said the board continues to progress on implementing its strategic plan, focusing on the three key priorities of growth, learning and engagement.
“It’s been a busy year as well with the opening of two new schools,” Parmar noted.
Pexsisen Elementary School opened in September, with a capacity of 500 students, and the 700-seat Lellum Middle School opened in November.
”That was challenging during a pandemic with supply chain issues,” Parmar said. “I’m proud of all of our efforts.”
Another elementary school in the south Latoria area will open in 2025. All three schools are in Langford, one of the fastest-growing communities in the province.
“The biggest priority is building a new elementary school in Port Renfrew, a commitment the board made to Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Jeff James,” Parmar said.