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Sooke School District asks province to replace 'unsafe' tiny school in Port Renfrew

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Everybody knows your name at Port Renfrew Elementary School.

A whopping 18 students are enrolled there, making it one of the least-populated schools on Vancouver Island.

“It’s small and you can know everyone in it,” said Danaya Joe, a Grade 3 student at the school on the southwest coast.

“You can make more friends,” said Grade 4 student Breanna Jones.

Despite the tiny class size, energy emanates through the hallways, where students can be heard laughing and working together to answer teachers’ questions.

“It’s amazing. I love this community and this school,” principal Cory Meausette told CTV News.

“There’s some real power with those smaller numbers.”

Less powerful, is the foundation of the school, which was built in 1970.

“I’m assuming that with a massive seismic event, it’s not going to stand at all, so it needs a major upgrade,” said Tracy Charlie, a councillor at the neighbouring Pacheedaht First Nation.

'ONE OF THE MOST SEISMICALLY UNSAFE SCHOOLS'

The Sooke School District has asked the province to fund a $10-million replacement. It expects to have an answer by mid-March.

“I remain cautiously optimistic that they see the need and the desire,” SD62 board of education chair Ravi Parmar said.

“It is one of the most seismically unsafe schools in the province.”

Pacheedaht Chief Jeff Jones said the new school would sit near the town’s gas station, which is outside of the tsunami zone.

“If an earthquake ever hits Pacheedaht, our community would definitely go straight down because we’re living on sand,” Jones said.

He’s eager to replace the kindergarten-to-Grade 5 school, while maintaining the sense of community within it.

“It’s family,” he said.

“As a small community, you seem to connect a little closer than living in a place like Victoria or Vancouver… so there’s that much more room to create relationships.”

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