Tuesday October 31, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated November 1, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Well, what a treat for School District 62 Sooke (SD62) on this Halloween of 2023!
The Minister of Education and Child Care announced in the gymnasium of an elementary school in Langford this morning that $24 million will be available to SD62 to bring on new classrooms in time for September 2024. A slam-dunk for the west shore school district and the new MLA, working collaboratively to make this happen.
Schools take a long time to build, and portables are considered generally insufficient for a full school experience. In between that is the installation of modular classrooms.
Modular classrooms are attached to the school. There is obviously a land requirement for that option to happen.
Two elementary schools that are chock-a-block full in the west shore area of SD62 are Ruth King Elementary (on Jacklin Road in downtown Langford) and David Cameron Elementary (on Meaford Avenue in Colwood).
The eight new modular classrooms will produce 190 seats at each school (total of 380 seats). Curious wording of the news release… “adding 190 seats in eight new classrooms to each of Ruth King Elementary and David Cameron Elementary” but not anywhere stating 380 total seats for SD62. Likely that’s to appease each of the two municipalities, giving each of them a number to work with.
Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA Ravi Parmar today called the new units “bright and spacious” (a subtle comparison to portables) and that they can be “built in half the time”.
Cost of education spaces:
If anyone was unaware of the cost of delivering public education, the quick math on that is about $63,157 per newly created student space.
The baseline available funding for the new additions at the two schools is $16 million, with the other $8 million available if there are unforeseen expenses, explained SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson today.
The additions at Ruth King Elementary and David Cameron Elementary will be custom-made prefabricated additions that will get students into classrooms quicker. With sustainable and energy-efficient designs, the additions align with the Province’s CleanBC targets and meet B.C.’s enhanced energy requirements.
Installations like this require land. Both Ruth King Elementary and David Cameron Elementary could fulfill on that requirement (taking up some of the school yard space).
While the provincial government will be picking up the tab for the new spaces, the SD62 school district will be required to take on further operating costs like furnishing the classrooms, heating/ventilation, technology, and teachers.
Who was there:
The audience for today’s school expansion announcement was spooky-large! In addition to the adorably costumed children sitting on benches in front of the speaker podium, the VIPs of the local region were out in full force.
SD62 was represented by SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson, Deputy Superintendent Paul Block (who becomes Superintendent starting January 2024), Associate Superintendent Monica Braniff (who will become Deputy Superintendent in January 2024), together with Board Chair Amanda Dowhy and SD62 trustees Cendra Beaton, Russ Chipps, Christine Lervold and Allison Watson.
Colwood council (including Mayor Doug Kobayashi and Councillor David Grove) and Langford council (including Mayor Scott Goodmanson, and Councillors Colby Harder, Kimberley Guiry, Keith Yacucha and Mary Wagner) and staff (CAO Darren Kiedyk and Corporate Officer Brendan Hutchins) were there for the big expansion announcement.
Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson said that the education ministry offered modular classrooms as an option during the 2023 Union of BC Municipalities convention in September. His fast-growing municipality jumped at the opportunity to support more school expansion.
West shore growth:
Langford has been the target area for the Regional Growth Strategy of the Capital Regional District (CRD) since at least 2008. Housing growth was planned all along to happen in Langford, Colwood and Sooke. On top of that, the influx of new residents to BC has tallied almost 250,000 people in the last two years — putting pressure on housing, schools and health care.
Mayor Goodmanson says the school system is ‘catching up’ to the growth. Deputy Superintendent Block says about 500 to 650 students per year are arriving in the west shore; indeed, capital planning — including additional staff who’ve essentially become constriction project managers — became an SD62 priority as far back as 2014.
Block says that the greatest number of new incoming students are in elementary grade levels (K to Grade 5), followed by an influx at the secondary school level (Grades 9+). That reflects the momentum of families seeking housing/rentals in areas where they can possibly afford to find a home and put down roots.
The next focus on the capital planning list is the high school in North Langford (McCallum Road commercial area), now that the two elementary schools (that were at the top of the capital planning list) have been dealt with, said SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull today.
Recognizing the needs of the growing community, the provincial government has approved approximately $260 million to create 2,660 new student seats in the Sooke School District during the past five years, including the new Pexsisen Elementary, Centre Mountain Lellum Middle school, an addition to Royal Bay Secondary and SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ Elementary, which is the new elementary school under construction.
Local MLA Ravi Parmar — who shared the podium today with Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh — was clearly pleased at the result of his lobbying to get more funds for SD62 schools. “That’s my job,” he told Island Social Trends after the formal media session. He’s been impressing upon Minister Singh about the need to keep up with school spaces in fast-growing regions like Sooke/westshoe.
Minister Singh today said that Surrey and Langley are two other areas that might see similar modular classroom additions. For the September 2023 start of school there were 12 modular classrooms newly opened in Nanaimo (adding 295 seats).
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke has followed the news of SD62 at the board and committee level since 2014. She is the founding editor and publisher of Island Social Trends which launched at IslandSocialTrends.ca mid-2020 (and before that MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020). Island Social Trends will re-emerge in print starting 2024.
Ms Brooke reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery and this year was nominated for a Jack Webster Foundation award for contributing to community through journalism.
Mary P Brooke was a trustee candidate in SD62 in 2022 as a way to enliven discussion around key issues for parents in the community.
Mary raised her four children in Oak Bay/Fairfield and Sooke (SD61 and SD62) over the years when education suffered under cutbacks and slow school growth under the previous (BC Liberal) government.