Home Education Westshore - SD62 Seismic upgrades or more for SD62 school in Port Renfrew

Seismic upgrades or more for SD62 school in Port Renfrew

SD62 gunning for a full K-12 campus at Port Renfrew | seeking federal funds

rachna singh, john horgan, sd62
Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh came out to the Sooke School District on John Horgan's last day as MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, March 31, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Friday March 31, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated June 15, 2023]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

Short on details, long on history… the announcement today about the future of the Port Renfrew Elementary school was delivered with the might of BC government dignitaries… Minister of Education Rachna Singh and outgoing former Premier John Horgan (MLA for Juan de Fuca until midnight tonight), who managed to squeeze in at least one more announcement in Langford after this one, at the Starlight Stadium about rugby.

They were joined at the podium by Sooke School District (SD62) Chair Ravi Parmar and Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Jeff Jones. The traditional Indigenous welcome was delivered by Songhees Elder Florence Dick.

Many of the students at the Port Renfrew Elementary are of local Indigenous families.

rachna singh, education minister
BC Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh at the SD62 administration office in Langford, Mar 31, 2023. [Island Social Trends]

Other than saying that seismic improvements were on the Ministry’s radar, only the vagaries of a business plan were hinted at by Chair Parmar and Chief Jones.

Business plan will aim for more:

Based on details filled in afterward by SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson, it looks like SD62 hopes to hold out for federal funding through the Pacheedhat First Nation in order to expand the current elementary school (Grades K-5) to be a full campus school including Grades 6 to 12.

That will be one of the options in the business plan that was the key point announced by Parmar and Horgan today.

Last year at the June 2022 SD62 Resources Committee meeting the seismic needs of Port Renfrew Elementary (and Sooke Elementary) were presented at the top of the list of schools needing that level of upgrade.

Small student population & taking the bus:

The present Port Renfrew Elementary School is attended by 19 students in Kindergarten to Grade 5. Older students in Grades 6 to 12 must travel by school bus for about 1.5 hours each way on weekdays to get to school in Sooke and return, making for a long day ahead of a bus that departs around 7 am and gets them back home to Port Renfrew around 5 pm.

Sooke has four elementary schools (John Muir, Sooke, Saseenos and Ecole Poirier), one middle school (Journey) and one high school (Edward Milne Community School).

Eventually eliminating the bus route to and from Port Renfrew would also help SD62 reduce their operating costs for buses, repairs and drivers.

Who was there:

At least 50 people attended today’s low-key announcement, conducted without a formal media scrum, packed into the SD62 administration building lobby in Langford.

Many former SD62 trustees (going back at least two election cycles) were at today’s announcement, indicating how long this plan has been in the works. The former folk included Bob Beckett, Wendy Hobbs, Neil Poirier, Denise Riley, Dianna Seaton and Margot Swinburnson. In addition to Parmar, current trustees in attendance today were Amanda Dowhy (vice-chair), Russ Chipps, and Allison Watson.

horgan, parmar, rachna singh
Celebrating seismic upgrade funding for Port Renfrew Elementary, March 31, 2023 at the Sooke School District (SD62) administration office (from left): Pacheedhat Chief Jeff Jones, Songhees First Nations Elder Florence Dick, Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh, Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan, and SD62 Board Chair Ravi Parmar. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Horgan today said that the SD62 trustees over the years have “had a genuine desire to do what they can to make education in Port Renfrew as much of a priority as it can be”. Horgan spent many of his early years in elected office as the NDP Education Critic, so it seemed fitting that he come full circle to the SD62 board office on his last day officially representing the people of the west shore region.

Former Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks also attended, whose political influence in Port Renfrew has been deep from the start. Al Wickheim — the new Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director (since the October 2022 election) was also on board today.

Also attending today’s event were CUPE 459 President Amber Leonard, SD62 Executive Director of Information Technology Farzaan Nusserwanji, and Hans Fredericksen of the now-closed Langford-Juan de Fuca constituency office.

mike hicks, jdf, port renfrew president
Former Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks chatting with the president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, at SD62, March 31, 2023. [Island Social Trends]

Safe at school:

Minister Singh today acknowledged how students should be “safe at school”, referring to the seismic upgrade intentions for Port Renfrew.

Fast-growing district:

The Minister also emphasized that she is “very aware” of how fast the SD62 school district is growing, and presumably the range of pressures that are generated by that pace of growth. Her day in Langford included some school visits, including Belmont Secondary School.

In January, Minister Singh had visited Royal Bay Secondary in Colwood.

Both those high schools (for Grades 9 to 12) opened in September 2015 and have been full to capacity nearly from the start; in fact the student population of both those schools has been past capacity for the last few years.

Departing from political life:

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After many final farewells along the path to his departure as an MLA (and the 36th BC Premier) Horgan made some final remarks, again, at the podium today.

This could very well have been his last official speech, on the heels of last night’s big bash fundraiser for the party faithful held in downtown Victoria.

The sign has been taken down from John Horgan’s constituency office on Jacklin Road in Langford, and with it goes a many-chaptered story of political life on the west shore of Vancouver Island.

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===== RELATED:

SD62 capital plan: new schools, seismic upgrades, replacements (July 7, 2022)

Port Renfrew & Sooke Elementary top SD62’s seismic mitigation list (June 14, 2022)



mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends is a professional news portal at islandsocialtrends.ca . Fully online since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the extensive groundwork of previous print publications in the west shore: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).

Since 2008, journalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to news analysis about the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC provincial news, and national news impacts.

Ms Brooke has been covering news of School District 62 (SD62) at the board and committee level, including attending nearly all of their meetings since 2014. Mary P Brooke was a school trustee candidate (SD62 Belmont Zone – Langford, Colwood, Metchosin and Highlands) in the October 2022 election, as a service to community.

The Island Social Trends Journalism Program offers the opportunity for high school students on Vancouver Island to learn journalism by preparing and submitting articles in a real world context.