Plans underway to rebuild St. Michaels Junior School

Victoria Avenue building stands to be levelled in favour of new digs

Renovations have been a long time coming at St. Michaels University’s Junior School, but the end is near for staff and students working in the dated space, which school officials say is not fit to the demands of today’s model of collaborative education.

The 1959 building was last updated in 1997 and the independent school says a long-overdue facelift is in order – most likely in the form of a complete tear-down and new building construction.

“Because it’s a 1950s building, it doesn’t really suit the kind of education we’re trying to give our kids these days,” said Laura Authier, director of marketing and communications for St. Michaels University School. “The issues we’re dealing with are primarily around space.”

The smaller classrooms aren’t conducive to the 21st century learning, now mandated by the province, she added, noting poor lighting and a lack of meeting space also came into play. In January the school hosted a group of community members who voiced their concerns – mostly of parking, traffic and view – associated with the upcoming construction.

“So far (the neighbours) have been really willing to work with us,” she said. “We’ve found the process really positive so far.”

St. Michaels hosts its second opportunity for the community to offer feedback during a community open house on May 27.

“It’s a long-term process and we know it’s about a year and a half, at least, before any construction can begin. There are a lot of steps to go through and we want to make sure we do this properly.”

School officials hope to have the master plan completed within the next six months, though no hard deadline has been set. Without a design, the project is also void of a budget at this point. There will likely be one last opportunity for the public to provide input, when the master plan is complete, before St. Michaels brings a proposal to Oak Bay council.

“We want to make sure that we address all of the issues that come up from the community as we go, so we can factor them in to our final plan,” Authier added.

Elements of possible design features will be revealed at the open house, which runs from 3:30 to 7 p.m. May 27 at St. Michaels Junior School, 820 Victoria Ave.