Sooke schools are struggling with some major growing pains.
Despite the province investing a record $2 billion in school capital projects over the next three years, the need for new and upgraded facilities in Sooke continues to rise.
The Sooke School District ended up with double its projected enrolled growth this school year. The district has 11,665 students this year, 18 per cent coming from Sooke schools.
“How we build new facilities and new schools will depend on Sooke’s growth,” said school board chair Ravi Parmar at a recent meeting with Sooke council. “There are significant challenges across the district, not just Sooke.”
By the end of 2034, the district expects a combined deficit of 300 seats at Poirier, Saseenos, Sooke and Journey schools.
“Of course, those are projections,” Parmar said. “By the time we get there, we could be looking at more than that.”
Schools in Sooke are using a combined 11 portable classrooms this year. Parmar said portables would remain in Sooke until new schools can be built.
The school district hopes to open a new Sooke elementary school in the Sunriver area by 2027. Four schools are also planned for Langford and Colwood. Provincial approval is still pending.
There is concern that the new schools already being planned might not be enough to keep pace with all the new families moving into the area.
“Right now, we’re building two new schools in west Langford, and one of those schools will be at capacity when it opens,” Parmar said.
He added conversations might be needed in the future to look at more creative solutions to expand school facilities in Sooke.
“Building new schools is just part of it. We may also need to look at expansion or replacements of schools,” Parmar said, noting Sooke elementary school is 100 years old.
Mayor Maja Tait said the challenge has always been the condition and age of schools in Sooke.
“Many of our schools don’t meet seismic requirements. Despite the enrolment, the schools will continue to age,” Tait said.