Monday March 29, 2021 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 3 pm]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Students are getting back to their studies after spring break today.
Meanwhile, the construction of two new schools in West Langford continues toward opening in September 2022. The elementary and middle schools together on the same property on Constellation Avenue at the corner of West Shore Parkway will accommodate 1,200 students.
The designs for Pexsiseṉ Elementary and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle schools were unveiled at a gathering of the Sooke School District 62 (SD62) administrative and board leadership held last year at Belmont Secondary on March 12, just as the pandemic hit. [Video rendering of the new schools]
One year later — on March 15, 2021, the Premier’s office announced that construction of the project is 25% complete and that structural steel is expected to arrive at the end of this month. However, today Island Social Trends learned that the structural steel will now arrive toward the end of April.
The site for both schools has now been prepared with concrete foundations and retaining walls in place, allowing for construction to begin.
Premier John Horgan is the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, and himself made the initial funding announcement of $88.6 million on the school site in June 2019.
“It’s no secret the West Shore is home to some of the fastest-growing communities in the province and an attractive place to raise a family,” it was stated by Premier Horgan in a statement at the start of spring break.
“Our government made it a priority to build new and expanded schools to meet the growth,” said Premier John Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca.
“I am excited students in Langford will soon have the benefit of learning in modern, engaging and inspiring new schools designed to support student success,” he was quoted.
The SD62 board of seven trustees is comprised of four trustees from the Belmont Zone (primarily Langford and Colwood) and three trustees from the Milne’s Landing Zone (Sooke and Juan de Fuca). Horgan’s riding encompasses both those zones.
“As a board of education, we work hard to ensure there are neighbourhood schools for our communities,” says SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar, Chair. “We’re thankful the government recognizes the growth and opportunity in our communities. These schools help us on our path to providing leadership in educational stewardship, while fostering choice and diversity for both our students and staff.”
Municipal and school district:
As the Langford area grows, there is increasing interface at top decision-making levels between the City of Langford and SD62.
A new working group comprised of just four people (city mayor and CAO, along with school district chair and superintendent) will now meet twice a year (a motion to that effect was passed by Langford Council on March 15, 2021).
The announcement of building new schools is usually pinned with the benefit of reducing the need for portables at nearby schools. Ironically, the visual appearance of the new school designs somewhat resembles the shape and form of portables, perhaps to blend in should it ever be necessary to eventually add some portables to the site in a growing community.
“We all want to provide students the best possible environments to learn in, and that means schools that are designed for modern learning,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education.
“I’m pleased to see these forward-thinking investments in Langford schools becoming a reality for families who need them, and I can’t wait to see the school communities built at Pexsiseṉ and Centre Mountain Lellum,” said Whiteside in a release.
In addition, there will be a new neighbourhood learning centre on site with new, before- and after-school child care spaces to further support young families in the community.
“Creating new child care opportunities for families is vital to building strong communities and supporting B.C.’s economy,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development and MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin.
“By providing child care on school grounds, especially in busy communities like the West Shore, we can help make pickups and drop-offs easier for parents and inspire young children to become lifelong learners.”
Funding for schools:
Since September 2017, government has announced more than $2.2 billion for school construction projects in B.C. This includes $187 million for the Sooke School District to add 1,800 new student seats at three schools and the purchase of five sites for future schools to meet expected growth on the West Shore.
More schools are in the SD62 capital plan toward accommodating the continued growth of the region.
Housing construction continues in Langford, Colwood and Sooke, leading to increased populations in SD62 schools. The SD62 school district presently has 27 schools in operation, with the two new ones bringing that to 29.
While the schools are in Langford, Colwood and Sooke, the more than 11,000 students who attend them arrive from a broad region including Highlands, Metchosin, East Sooke, Juan de Fuca west of Sooke (to Port Renfrew), and parts of View Royal.
Back in 2019 the SD62 school district used a ‘word-cloud’ public input interface to assemble thoughts from the community on proposed names for the school.
The SD62 board deliberated over proposed names within the framework of their naming policy which includes options for recognizing historical figures in their community, geographical landmarks in the region, as well as Indigenous influences.
Both schools were given Indigenous names:
- Pexsiseṉ (PUXX/SEE/SUNG) is a Lekwungen and SENĆOŦEN word gifted to the Sooke School District by the Songhees First Nation. It means “the opening of hands” or “to have one’s hands wide open.”
- The term Lellum (LAY-LUM) in Centre Mountain Lellum was gifted to the Sooke School District by Sc’ianew Nation (Beecher Bay) and carries the meaning of house and the idea of community, where children are raised.
SD62 public input to the budget for 2021-2022 (SD62 link)
Next SD62 meetings in April 2021: Education Policy Committee (April 6), Resources Committee (April 13), Board Meeting (April 27) [virtual meeting links on SD62 main page]
===== About the writer:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been covering news of the Sooke School District 62 (SD62) at the board and committee level since 2014. Over the years, her now-grown children attended schools in SD61 (Greater Victoria), SD62 (Sooke) and SD72 (Campbell River).