With a toss of gravel into the air, the countdown to the opening of Colwood’s newest school began on Friday afternoon.
The ceremonial sod-turning capped off a seven-year process that will eventually lead to the private Brookes Westshore school opening next fall for students in Grades 6 to 12.
Brookes Education Group co-founder Graham Brown said the school comes at the right time for the West Shore, as the region has come into its own.
“We knew what type of school we would do, and we knew there was a need for other options here,” he said. “The reality is a lot of kids don’t fit in the public school system. … We can offer something different and hope this is a good fit for them.”
The $25-million school, which will house 300 students — 150 boarding and 150 day students — will follow the lead of the seven other Brookes schools around the world, including its sister campus near Shawnigan Lake, and offer the International Baccalaureate middle years program for Grades 6 to 10 and the IB diploma program for Grades 11 and 12.
“There’s definitely a need here,” said Brown, who said the internationalism and diversity of the Brookes network is its strength. “You want as much diversity as you can, and you need to tie [learning] into a global perspective.”
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, on hand for the ground-breaking event, said the effort to establish the school in the municipality has not gone unnoticed.
“This is the day we can start counting down to the fall of 2018,” she said, noting a new school provides diversity, economic development and a new asset to the city.
David Rose, Brookes director for Africa, Europe and the Middle East, said the kind of education they are offering is being snapped up around the world.
“Our approach to teaching and learning with [International Baccalaureate] at the centre have hit a chord with so many people and so many places that it’s quite a challenge to manage the exponential demand for Brookes schools globally,” said Rose, who oversees the Brookes school in Cambridge, England.
He pointed out there are more than 4,000 schools worldwide — including 47 in B.C. — offering IB programs and said there are other Brookes schools under development in Russia, China and India.
“It’s more critical than ever for young people to have the opportunity to develop as respectful and active citizens who are able to make a difference,” Rose said. “It’s not enough anymore to be taught in a way that only requires the regurgitation of facts.”
The IB program at Brookes aims to educates the whole student by teaching critical-thinking skills, balancing academics with physical activity and encouraging a spirit of service to the community.
A Brookes education does not come cheap. Domestic boarding students in Grades 6 to 10 will pay $39,550 annually, while day students will pay $14,400. In Grades 11 and 12, the fees rise to $42,500 and $16,400 respectively.
International boarders will pay $49,550 in Grades 6 to 10 and $52,500 in Grades 11 and 12.
The school is being built by Kinetic Construction just east of Royal Roads University’s entrance on Sooke Road. The work is expected to employ about 100 people over the next 14 months.
Brown said recruitment of students and hiring of teachers will start this fall. He expects to have 30 full-time teachers among a total of 50 staff on campus.
Teachers will have to take IB programs and workshops before they can start.
Brown said the hope is to see connections among the faculty the same way IB students tend to exchange with colleagues in other countries.
“With us having multiple schools, our dream is not only for students to exchange among different campuses, but also have that happen with the teachers,” he said. “Imagine if you spent a year teaching in Russia, you as a teacher would come back seeing the world differently.”