Call it hitting the jackpot or an early Christmas gift.
To thunderous applause of students and almost every politician on the West Shore, Education Minister George Abbott announced what many West Shore people have been waiting to hear for years: Belmont secondary will be replaced in a new location and a new high school will be built in Royal Bay.
It’s estimated as a $100 million project, one that will keep many trades employed for years. The ministry will pocket some $30 million when the Sooke School District sells the large Belmont school property, and Langford’s commercial and residential core will have a chance to expand along Jackin Road.
Replacing Belmont is long overdue. SD 62 maintenance staff needs to work hard to keep the building — a patchwork of several buildings going back to the 1950s — in safe and working order. The famous duct tape is a minor problem. The city block-long structure needs a seismic overhaul.
To the a relief of SD 62 staff and trustees, the ministry in its wisdom opted to build two schools, as opposed to a single building, which was hinted at earlier this year.
The long and often frustrating lobbying campaign by trustees, superintendents, students and local politicians played no small role in swaying the highest levels of government to release capital funding. As acknowledged by Education Minister George Abbott, in this case the squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease.
Having SD 62’s capital plan authorized by the province is a huge win for the West Shore, and shows the B.C. Liberals will hand out money for good projects, regardless of the political stripes of area MLAs.
Not everyone will be happy. People living near the old Glen Lake elementary have been concerns about a high school opening their neighbourhood.
Selling the Belmont property, which includes its playing fields, is sure be a contentious. Unlike the heated debate over closing Glen Lake, the Ministry of Education has given SD 62 permission to sell Belmont without a public process.