More portable classrooms coming for West Shore students
Multiple portables at Dunsmuir Middle School are shown. More are coming for schools in the Sooke School District. July 4, 2019. (CTV Vancouver Island)
Published Thursday, July 4, 2019 4:27PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, July 5, 2019 10:16AM PDT
With the population on the West Shore exploding, schools in the Sooke School District are bursting at the seams.
Almost 11,000 students were enrolled in the district last school year. An additional 400 students are expected to enroll when school starts in September.
That means the school board is faced with the difficult choice of adding another five portable classrooms to an already portable heavy school district.
The schools getting a new portable classroom over the summer are Belmont Secondary, Millstream Elementary and Spencer Middle School. Wishart Elementary will see the biggest increase with two additional portables.
"We've been adding portables the last few summers as we continue to grow," said Ravi Parmar, Sooke School District Board Chair. "In total we are at about 59 portables including the five that are coming in this September."
The West Shore communities have continued to grow with more families moving from Victoria and other parts of B.C. including the Lower Mainland. As more families move to Langford, Colwood and Sooke the demand for space in schools for students is also growing.
"What's really great is Langford, Colwood and Sooke councils and the mayors have created these communities that people want to move to," said Parmar. "With the housing crisis, people from all over B.C. saw Langford, Colwood and Sooke to be affordable places to live."
The recent announcement by the Province of B.C. to build two new schools in the district will result in 700 new spaces for students by 2022. Parmar points to the $31-million expansion at Royal Bay Secondary to be complete by September of 2020 as another step to reduce the use of portables.
"It's a challenge when we look at the growth it doesn't look like it is going to be stopping anytime soon," said Parmar. "We are hopefully doing our part to build these schools as quickly as possible so we aren't a situation like Surrey, that has thousands of students in portables."
The Sooke School District Board hopes the addition of five new portables to four schools will be a short-term solution to crowded schools. But at a cost of $300,000 to purchase and set it up, a portable classroom is not an inexpensive alternative.
"We are going to do everything we can to build a new middle and elementary school on time and on budget so we can start removing some of those portables," said Parmar.
Parmar said the district is asking the Province for additional funding for another school. It the district secures funding, the hope is it can be built at the same time as the other two schools. The new schools are expected to open by 2022.