Delays in portable construction have schools using gyms as classrooms
The school year is just around the corner, but at some Victoria schools, portables meant to accommodate smaller class sizes won’t be ready for another month.
The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association issued a news release Friday saying delays have halted portable construction at several area schools.
“Two classes at Willows Elementary, one at Quadra Elementary and one at Central Middle will be without a proper learning environment come September 5th,” the GVTA said.
At Willows, students will instead be learning their lessons for the first month in the school gym.
“They have found alternatives within the school for that period of time that we’re waiting,” said Mark Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer for the Greater Victoria School District. “The gym teacher is also working out plans to be able to use more outdoor space, more recreation time, hopefully at the recreation centre.”
Other schools are using “flex spaces” to house kids until portables are ready.
Walsh said the district is tapping all available resources until the construction on the portables is complete, hopefully by the beginning of October.
GVTA president Jason Gammon said teachers have been pushing for trustees to reopen closed schools to ensure all students have space to learn.
"Redrawing catchments and opening schools is tough work, but necessary to ensure that we are adequately housing our students,” he said. “The Board of Trustees had the opportunity to open Richmond Elementary School for the 2017/18 school year, but chose instead to delay that decision.”
NDP education minister Rob Fleming said in a news conference Friday that the province has been busy hiring 3,500 new teachers – the result of a Supreme Court of Canada decision last year that reinstated reduced class size standards in the province.
Fleming pinned the blame on the portable situation squarely on the shoulders of the previous Liberal government, saying not enough was done to address overcrowding when it was in power.
“Portables are temporary solutions. They’re a symptom of overcrowded schools in different parts of British Columbia,” said Fleming.
“You take fast-growing districts here on the South Island, Sooke is a great example of this, where there’s a proliferation of portables and the cause of that is because the previous government cut capital budgets year after year, didn’t deploy resources to build new schools quickly enough and made very poor planning decisions.”
The Sooke School District has its portables ready to go for the start of the school year, but says it’s already looking to expand a high school that was built two years ago.
Royal Bay Secondary School was overcapacity when it opened, and administrators are hopeful the new government will make good on its promise to fast-track construction to keep pace with the region’s booming population.
The district is also asking for a new middle school and three new elementary schools.