Monday November 14, 2022 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated November 18, 2022]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The newest school on Vancouver Island has opened in Langford. It’s a middle school that accommodates a student population of 700.
Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School (CML) opens today, making an exciting ‘back to school’ restart of the 2022-2023 year for students in the Langford and Colwood areas.
This morning School District 62 confirmed a current student population of 518 (74% of capacity).
The three-storey Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School (CML) is situated in the Westhills community, on the same property as the Pexsisen Elementary School (which seats 500 students) that opened in September. The school was built to LEED Gold Standards and includes accessibility features such as elevators and parking for people with disabilities.
Some of the views from classroom windows are pretty stupendous!
The BC Government funding for construction of the school amounts to $65.1 million, according to the Ministry of Education and Child Care.
Land for the combined Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School together with Pexsisen Elementary School was first purchased back in 2107, with $23.4 million from the Province and $1.6 million from School District 62; all of this is BC taxpayer money applied toward public education.
Various ground-breaking events and construction tours have been held over the years, leading up to today’s exciting completion and move-in.
Delayed Fall 2022 opening:
The CML school opening was delayed by two months due to supply chain disruptions experienced by the construction company. Specifically, according to Farmer Construction at the time, some windows ordered through a supplier in California had not arrived in time for September, among other items (such as electronic parts and plumbing items) as outlined today by SD62 Manager of Planning and Construction, Alex Samousevitch.
For the start of the 2022-2023 school year, students in Grades 6 to 8 who have now started their first day at CML effective today (November 14, 2022) attended other schools in School District 62 (Sooke) from September 6 to November 8.
Shuttle buses were provided for students dropped off at the CML site and then relocated to three temporary locations for that two-month period (or otherwise arrived at school by other means).
On November 9 and 10 there was no in-class instruction while teachers and staff relocated and set up the new classrooms at CML. In the previous week (week of October 31-November 4), desks and chairs were delivered to the school. Other deliveries included office furniture, Library furniture, staff room furniture and supplies, music equipment, and PE supplies.
Successful opening day:
“Promised and delivered” is how SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson responded about getting the school open on time, and all the students in place for their first day at Centre Mountain Lellum.
There are about 200 students in Grade 6, 150 in Grade 7, and 200 in Grade, said Stinson today during the media tour.
He and Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull were clearly pleased with the on-time opening.
Samousevitch said some “finishing touches” remain — which were pretty much evident throughout the school in various places and ways — but Stinson says by calendar year-end all remaining deficiencies are likely to have been dealt with.
There is still landscaping to do, including planter boxes with trees along rock walls.
Two playgrounds will be installed in the next few weeks: one outside the home economics room and on the second level near the bus loop.
Considering that the fire chief’s inspection was done only yesterday (squeezing that in on a Sunday), the Monday morning opening was a triumph for Stinson and his team.
“It was an amazing accomplishment to have 500 kids in here today,” he said, beaming as much as the top staff person would allow himself. Indeed, it was a spectacular day, after over five years of SD62 planning and expectation.
Stinson and Cull gave high praise to Farmer Construction for meeting the (rescheduled) opening deadline. That also involved switching some of the attention to ‘finishing touches’ from Pexsisen Elementary next door, over to CML to make today’s opening happen.
Relocation during fall respiratory season:
The incidence of influenza, COVID and RSV is quite prevalent in the community right now, with health care system seeing a surge in pediatric admissions to hospital due to those viral illnesses that are spread through shared air.
The opening of CML today introduces a new mix of potential exposures to flu, COVID and RSV as families cross-pollinate their viral exposures through their children in a new school environment this week. State of the art ventilation is employed throughout the school, including HVAC in each classrooms and through the hallways and shared common areas.
Masking (related to the ongoing COVID pandemic) is no longer mandatory in BC, a policy based largely on a presumed level of sufficient immunity in the population due to COVID immunization.
Two weeks ago, the school principals Darren Russell (and two vice-principals Pam Gerrits and Glenn Bedard) posted online: “We know there will be some deficiencies when we move in, but the school will be operational and safe for all the staff and students. As it stands right now, there will be a few rooms on the lower level that may not be ready, but they plan to complete these rooms shortly after we take full possession.”
“We will be sending a map to all families outlining the bus zones, the parent pick up and drop off areas and the walking route for our students. We hope to get this map out within the week,” said Russell and his VPs on November 2.
“Communicating with parents is the key to building successful relations,” said Russell online.
Back in September, Principal Russell noted that students would be coming to CML from 12 elementary schools and four middle schools within the SD62 district. “And we will be welcoming new students from other districts, other provinces and even other countries,” he noted.
A modern place to learn:
Early this morning the Ministry of Education and Child Care issued a news release about the opening of CML, emphasizing the 700-capacity seating and called the school “a modern and connected space to learn”.
The Ministry is pleased that CML classrooms are “state-of-the-art”.
There are many open spaces with flexible use, such as wide stairways that can be used for meetings and assemblies. Lockers are in each home room classroom instead of along hallways, which makes for easier movement in hallways and more attention to how lockers are used when under the view of the home room teacher.
Changerooms have areas for male and female students, and also several separate private changerooms. Bathrooms are accessible and spacious.
There is a large multi purpose room that can be used for workshops, meetings, and social events.
There is a room called ‘The Zone’, a welcoming space where students can go to de-stress. The primary goal of that space is to ‘get them back into the classroom’, said the room’s teacher-leader.
The home economics (foods) room at the new Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School in #Langford has six fully-equipped student work stations and one for the teacher. During the media tour last week the teacher was clearly pleased with her new teaching space. The views are pretty good too!
Fast-growing housing market:
The Ministry acknowledges the challenges of a school district that can’t really keep up with the fast-growing housing market and population influx in the west shore.
“We know there is more to do, and we will continue to with the Sooke School District to find beneficial solutions to enrollment growth for families, students and staff,” said Education and Child Care Minister Jennifer Whiteside in today’s news release.
District name & geographical area:
While School District 62 (Sooke), i.e. SD62, is referred to as ‘the Sooke School District’ by the Ministry, that’s a bit of a misnomer. The district’s largest chunk of student population is not in Sooke but in the westshore area (primarily Langford and Colwood, but also Metchosin and Highlands).
In past years, the board has quietly discussed changing the name of the school district to better reflect the full region. A transitional step is how SD62 mostly refers to itself as School District 62.
As the new Royal Roads University ‘Langford/westshore campus’ heads toward a September 2024 opening, it’s possible a name change for SD62 might emerge at the same time — more likely using the name west shore.
As SD62 says on their website, the 27 SD62 schools “cover a vast area and serve the West Shore communities of Colwood, the Highlands, Langford and Metchosin as well as the communities of Sooke and Port Renfrew”. SD62 is comprised of:
- 19 elementary schools (16 westshore, 3 Sooke)
- 4 middle schools (3 westshore, 1 Sooke)
- 3 secondary schools (2 westshore, 1 Sooke)
- 1 adult/alternative school (westshore/Sooke)
The SD62 board of education is comprised of four trustees from the Belmont Zone (Langford, Colwood, Metchosin and Highlands) and three trustees from the Milne’s Landing Zone (Sooke and Juan de Fuca areas).
Attending today’s tour of Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School were trustees Ravi Parmar (chair), two trustees from the Belmont Zone (Cendra Beaton and Trudy Spiller) and one trustee from the Milne’s Landing Zone (Ebony Logins).
Growing load on the school district:
Keeping up with the growing population of Langford and Colwood — which has been driven by municipal interest in fulfilling the Capital Regional District (CRD) Regional Growth Strategy by building as much new housing as possible — has produced a game of catch-up for SD62 since 2014.
There are still not enough seats to properly deliver to class-size limits at many of the schools. Portables continue in ample use around the district; they are costly to setup and relocate as well as being less enjoyable overall as a learning space.
Many families see their kids having to attend schools outside their local catchment area. The delivery of busing has increasingly been a burden on the SD62 operating budget. A shortage of bus drivers emerged since the pandemic, and has stuck; routes are frequently cancelled (postings on social media let parents know).
Today’s opening of a new school at 74% capacity does give SD62 a bit of breathing room for a year or two at the middle school level.
About 300 to 500 new students have arrived in SD62 each year (across all grade levels), since about 2014.
The official student population count at September 30, 2022 was 12,249 FTEs, but students are continuing to arrive through the school year.
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been covering the news of School District 62 in-depth at the board and committee level since 2014 (the publication was previously West Shore Voice News up to 2020), including attending most of those meetings in full.
The Island Social Trends SD62 news archive is posted online as a service to subscribers and other readers.
All four of Mary’s now-grown children attended public schools (SD61, SD62, SD72).
Mary P Brooke was a trustee candidate (SD62 – Belmont Zone) in October 2022.
Alive with gardens and light at SD62’s new PEXSISEN Elementary (September 3, 2022)
Delay in opening new SD62 middle school in Sept 2022 (August 10, 2022)
SD62 capital plan: new schools, seismic upgrades, replacements (July 7, 2022)