The Sooke school district has purchased land for a new elementary school in Colwood’s Royal Bay development, paving the way for another school to serve the rapidly growing population.
The B.C. government provided $8.3 million and the school district kicked in $1.2 million to purchase the land between Latoria Boulevard and Metchosin Road. It’s the fifth school site purchased by the province in the Sooke school district in the last three years.
Ravi Parmar, chairman of the Sooke school board, said the district is excited about the prospect of building a school for the hundreds of families that call Royal Bay home. Parmar said the school district has long heard from families that they want schools in the community within walking distance of their homes.
Parmar said the goal is to build a 480-seat school within the next five to eight years, but noted that timeline could be sped up depending on the population growth in Royal Bay.
The school district will need funding from the Ministry of Education to build the school, Parmar said.
In a statement, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said the elementary school is “important for the growing number of families in Royal Bay and will relieve pressure in our other elementary schools, which are bursting at the seams. School District 62 is doing a fantastic job of understanding the pace of new development in combination with enrollment, to be proactive in planning to meet the needs of students and families here in Colwood and throughout the West Shore.”
Last week, Royal Bay Secondary unveiled its $30-million, 600-seat addition, making it Vancouver Island’s largest secondary school, with capacity for 1,400 students. The high school opened in 2015, but within a year, portables were needed to accommodate the growing number of students.
“Students deserve to learn in positive, engaging and inspiring classrooms, just as they are now at the new addition at Royal Bay Secondary school,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement. “Our government has made great progress investing in the future of schools in the Sooke School District, and we’re taking another great step forward with a new school site that will serve children in Royal Bay for generations to come.”
Sooke is one of the fastest-growing school districts per capita in the province, and officials expect it to grow by about 300 students a year for the next 15 years. About 11,500 students are projected to be registered for the 2020-21 academic year.
“We can’t build fast enough,” Parmar said.v
Construction will be starting later this month on the 500-seat Pexsisen Elementary School and the 700-seat Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School on Constellation Avenue in the Westhills area of Langford. Those schools are projected to be ready for students in September 2022. The Sooke school district has also purchased parcels of land for two elementary schools, one in south Langford and one in north Langford near Bear Mountain, as well as a high school on McCallum Road,near Costco.
The news of the future elementary school in Royal Bay comes a few months after the City of Colwood approved a massive expansion of the former gravel pit, with plans for up to 2,100 new homes and a commercial centre. The mixed-use project, which will include an 80,000-square-foot retail village with a grocery store, other shops and services, will be built by GableCraft Homes in the Latoria South portion of the community.
— With files from Carla Wilson and Jeff Bell