Royal Bay school portables bid farewell, go to new homes

As the completion of a $30-million addition to Royal Bay Secondary nears, the portable classrooms that symbolized the need for more space at the Colwood school have finally been moved.

The 10 portables — among about 60 spread around the Sooke School District — have now been distributed to seven other schools. Two have gone to both Ruth King and Wishart elementaries, two to Spencer Middle, one to Belmont Secondary, and one to each of David Cameron, Millstream and Sooke elementaries.

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“It’s quite spread out across the district,” said school board chairman Ravi Parmar.

Sooke is one of the fastest-growing school districts 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.

Parmar said the district won’t be able to fully do away with portables until a 500-seat elementary school and a 700-seat middle school being built on Constellation Avenue in the Westhills area of Langford are ready for students in September 2022.

“Even when they do open those two new schools we will be just at capacity,” he said. “We’ll maybe have a year or two and then we’ll be back at adding portables again.”

Once the three-storey, 19-classroom Royal Bay addition is complete in September, Royal Bay will be Vancouver Island’s largest secondary school with capacity for 1,400 students.

What happens to start the school year is, of course, dependent on decisions related to COVID-19, Parmar said.

Royal Bay was new in 2015 — as was Belmont Secondary — but due to rapid population growth, portables started to be brought in within a year.

Opening-day registration at Royal Bay in 2015 was 900 students, but it was designed with room for expansion.

Parmar said that with residential construction in the West Shore still booming at pre-pandemic levels, the school district is working hard to keep up with growth.

“We certainly want to continue to do our part to advocate for more dollars,” he said. “We’re hoping that we’ll be having future announcements for land purchases, as well as expansions and new schools.”

Land has already been secured on McCallum Road, near Costco, for another secondary school.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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