Friday January 27, 2023 | COLWOOD, BC [Updated 4:30 pm January 31 with notes from an interview with Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh, and on February 2 with notes from local MLA Mitzi Dean.]
SD62 SCHOOL NEWS | by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The recently new Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh visited at Royal Bay Secondary School (RBSS) in Colwood yesterday.
She was given a tour around the south Island’s largest high school by School District 62 (SD62) Superintendent Scott Stinson along with staff and some students.
Singh was appointed as Education and Child Care Minister on December 7, 2022 when Premier David Eby announced his first cabinet.
Tour for MLAs:
The tour was for MLAs — many of them new to Cabinet since December, and under leadership of a new premier — who were interested in seeing one of the province’s newer high schools. The media was not invited, as there was no specific news announcement.
Minister Rachna Singh was joined by local MLA Mitzi Dean (who is Minister of Children and Family Development) and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, as well as Brittny Anderson (Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism to the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport), Dan Coulter (Minister of State for Infrastructure and Transit), Henry Yao (MLA for Richmond South Centre), and Janet Rutledge (Government Caucus Deputy Whip).
Mitzi Dean as host:
With only about two or three days notice, the tour of Royal Bay Secondary was arranged by SD62 administration upon request from the BC NDP Caucus office. Local MLA Mitzi Dean hosted her fellow MLAs on the tour.
“It was a pleasure to host my colleagues in my community,including the Minister of Educaiton and Child Care, and visit the wonderful high school at Royal Bay in Colwood together,” said Dean.
“We met with some great students and toured the building, including the recent expansion; we heard terrific stories of support, success and school community coming together,” said Dean.
Minister Singh’s reflections:
In an interview in the days following the school tour, Minister Singh told Island Social Trends that Royal Bay Secondary School she was “so impressed” with Royal Bay as a beautiful school in a great location. She heard about new courses and along the tour observed a number of classes in session including the welding workshop that is a proud SD62 focus for career trades training.
Minister Singh said she was impressed with the gym, the open space, and views of the ocean. “I really had a great time along with many caucus colleagues of mine,” said Singh.
From staff and trustees Rachna Singh heard about the pressures on SD62 given the fast-growing community in Colwood and the west shore. Housing development is continual, to try and keep up with demand for families in the Greater Victoria area. She noted similar issues between SD62 Sooke / West Shore and Surrey on the mainland which is also a fast-growing area.
Minister Singh aims to work with boards of education and school communities to deliver the best for public education, “especially the capital projects”. At Royal Bay last week she heard about the 600-seat extension that was done there (adding 21 classrooms and a gymnasium), only a couple of years after the school opened in September 2015, in response to rapid community growth.
“We are committed to adding resources and continuing these conversations, I think that is important,” said Education and Child Care Minister Singh. She also said there will be cross-ministry collaboration, such as with the Housing ministry, as many new housing projects are going up in neighbourhoods. “We need to build the schools where the housing is. I have a really strong ally in Minister Kahlon and I’m glad he was part of this tour so he could see the community and how fast it is growing,” said Singh.
New Minister in a relatively new ministry:
Rachna Singh has been Education and Child Care Minister since December 7, 2022 (see Education and Child Care Minister’s mandate letter). The ministry used to be Education, but in March 2022 became Education and Child Care, which interlinks the responsibility for public education “from preschool to post-secondary” as SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson recently framed it.
On her various tours to schools around the province Rachna Singh hopes to also engage with parents who are “a very important part of the school community”, and looks forward to opportunities to meet and engage with parents including through district parent advisory committees.
As part of her mandate letter, Minister Singh is to support the Minister of State for Child Care by working toward universal access to before and after school care, continuing to build spaces on school grounds, and finalizing development of a capital plan for child care.
Trustees and staff:
The discussion about growth between the Ministry and SD62 had already been underway before the January 26 tour. Minister Singh mentioned about other schools coming up in the west shore, including a new elementary school in South Langford (slated to open in September 2025).
Also accompanying the tour from the local SD62 board were SD62 trustees Ravi Parmar (board chair), Amanda Dowhy (vice-chair), and Ebony Logins as well as RBSS Principal Mike Huck.
Other SD62 senior staff on the tour included Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull and Windy Beadall, District Principal Capital Planning.
School capacity in fast-growing neighbourhood:
Royal Bay Secondary exceeded its student seat capacity soon after opening, and the school was expanded by 600 seats but is now again over capacity with more than 1,500 students. There were portables for several years during the expansion construction, which were removed last year but will be needed again in 2023/24.
On yesterday’s tour, students shared stories of when Royal Bay had fewer students compared to now.
Population growth in the west shore (particularly Colwood and Langford) has been robust since 2014, due to the relatively more affordable housing options in the region. Seeing this coming, Royal Bay Secondary was in the works in time for opening in September 2015.
The school has a welding shop, dance studio, and other specialized features including an open-space learning commons.
Designed with input from then-principal Windy Beadall, the school has an open layout and upbeat colour theme.
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke is a long-time journalist, delivering news through a socioeconomic lens through Island Social Trends.
Based on the west shore of south Vancouver Island, IslandSocialTrends.ca covers news of the Greater Victoria area, south Vancouver Island with insights on BC and national issues.
Mary Brooke has consistently covered SD62 at the board and committee level since 2014. Ms Brooke was a school trustee candidate in SD62 Belmont Zone in October 2022.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends emerged in mid-2020 from a preceding series of publications edited by Mary P Brooke and published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc. The series: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020). | ARCHIVES: SD62 West Shore | EDUCATION