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New high school planned for north Langford as population booms

The proposed high school will be built on a 12-acre site in the City Gateway area near Costco
From left, Sooke School District board chair Amanda Dowhy, Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA Ravi Parmar and Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin and minister of state for childcare, announce the start of planning for a new high school in North Langford at the construction site for SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ Elementary on Latoria Road in Langford. TIMES COLONIST

Planning is underway for a new high school in north Langford as the student population continues to boom as the West Shore attracts more families.

The proposed high school will be built on a 12-acre site in the City Gateway area near Costco that the province acquired four years ago for $20 million.

The facility is expected to include an all-weather sports field with lights funded by the City of Langford and a theatre that could become a focal point for the arts on the West Shore.

Immediate planning is essential, as Langford’s two new high schools — Belmont and Royal Bay — are already “bursting at the seams,” said Amanda Dowhy, board chair for the Sooke School District.

“This is a project that’s come up in the expediency of need as we’ve seen the explosive growth in the Western Communities,” Dowhy said at a news conference Tuesday at the construction site on Latoria Road for SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ Elementary in Langford.

Dowhy said the new high school is expected to see “significant enrolment” within its first year. District officials declined to provide an estimate on the cost or the potential construction start or completion date.

The province has provided some funds to start the planning process at Sooke School District, with studies of population, catchment areas, programs and possible design components. A detailed business case could take about eight months.

Ravi Parmar, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, said the business case will be presented to the Education Ministry for consideration in next year’s provincial budget.

Parmar said both Belmont and Royal Bay, which opened in 2015, are at about 1,600 students.

By 2032, the district is expected to be short nearly 1,500 seats for high school students, “and that’s a conservative number,” said Parmar.

“Every 37 days, we welcome nearly 10,000 people to our province, and many of those people choose to make Langford, the West Shore and Sooke region their home,” said Parmar. “So I think it may be time that we start planing for making a new secondary school in the West Shore.”

Aside from SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ Elementary, now under construction, projects in the district include an expansion to Royal Bay Secondary School in Colwood and the completion of Pexsisen Elementary and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School in Langford.

The province said it has spent around $270 million to create about 2,660 new student seats in the district.

Superintendent Paul Block said the district currently has 13,148 full-time-equivalent students, with an average of more than 450 a year added since 2019.

Pointing to SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ Elementary, which has space for 480 and will open next year, Block said “the deficit we’re seeing every year will fill this school.”

The Sooke School District currently has 20 elementary schools, five middle schools and four secondary schools.

Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson, who attended the announcement with four city councillors, said council is committed to funding a full-size turf field and lights for the future high school and is also interested in exploring a partnership with the district for a large-scale performing arts theatre on the new school site.

The number of seats in any new theatre wasn’t disclosed, but estimates are about 1,500 — enough to attract concert performances and “world-class theatre performances,” according to officials.

Goodmanson said partnering with the district on the theatre would provide a “new amenity for the wider community,” but declined to say how much money the city might provide for a theatre partnership.

Dowhy said a potential performing arts theatre wouldn’t only provide new opportunities for students, but would allow West Shore high schools to host their own graduations at home, instead of at the University of Victoria.

Block said the new high school would also provide trades-training facilities and possibly theatre- and film-related courses — including possibly partnering with a company planning to build a film sound stage on the former Western Speedway lands.

Bastion Developments and Strand have plans to build a 40,000-square-foot sound stage.

The company said earlier this year that it has initiated a request for proposals for qualified film operators to lease the space.

Last fall, the company and Langford city staff sent the South Vancouver Island Film Commission to Los Angeles to meet with studio executives, “which fostered valuable connections and insights,” according to Bastion Developments.

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