The rapidly growing Sooke school district made huge strides in keeping up with the demand for student spaces Monday with a three-pronged provincial government announcement that included $88.6 million for a 500-seat elementary school and a 700-seat middle school.
The two schools will be built on a previously purchased 6.5-hectare site on Langford’s Constellation Avenue, adjacent to where the announcement was made.
On top of that, Premier John Horgan said that the government is providing another $18.6 million for land on McCallum Road in Langford, near Costco, to be the future home of a new 800-seat secondary school. The school district is putting in $350,000.
Plans for a new secondary school come after two other district secondaries, Belmont and Royal Bay, opened their doors in 2015. Growth in student numbers at Royal Bay has led to an expansion in just the school’s fourth year of existence that will make it the largest secondary on Vancouver Island at 1,400 seats.
“It was undersized when the doors were open,” Horgan said. “That speaks to the pace of growth in the community.”
Sooke school board chairman Ravi Parmar said the district is the fastest-growing per capita in the province. It has close to 11,000 students and is expected to grow by 300 to 400 students a year in the next decade.
“It’s critically important that the province keep pace working with the board of education, working with local mayors and councils and the construction sector,” Horgan said.
Parmar thanked Horgan for recognizing the “exponential” upswing in the district’s student population. He said communities continue to grow, as well, and most Sooke district schools are at or near capacity.
“You just have to look around here at Westhills in west Langford, Royal Bay in Colwood or Sunriver in Sooke,” he said. “We’re growing all over the school district.
“Our community needs these schools.”
Parmar said the new middle school will complement Spencer and Dunsmuir middle schools — currently home to a combined total of 17 portable classrooms — while the new elementary school “will be full of kids and young people all over west Langford and all over Langford.”
The new schools are due to be completed by September 2022, Parmar said.
“The students that are growing up in this community of west Langford will be able to walk to their elementary school, be able to walk and ride to their middle school and they already can walk to [Belmont] secondary school.”
He said the plan for another secondary school on McCallum Road is vital for the future since the revamped Royal Bay is expected to fill quickly.
Joining in Monday’s event was a group of students from David Cameron Elementary, many of whom could be attending the new middle school. The students were joined by the school’s parent advisory council president, Cor Marley, who said the new schools send a positive message.
“Every day in small ways our children ask us: ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?’ ” she said. “In building these schools we are showing that the answer is yes.
“A whole new group of students can take pride in ownership.”
Marley praised the efforts being made.
“You can’t make kids learn but you can provide the right conditions for learning to happen, and that is what is happening here.”