There is unease among Oak Bay High school redevelopment stakeholders after school officials withheld sharing their preliminary blueprints until changes are made, blaming architects for being “too pie in the sky.”
However, that explanation alarmed district council at a special committee meeting on Sept. 25. They are concerned that changes are being made by the school unilaterally, instead of collaboratively.
“(We) want to have the opportunity to edit before raising angst to council when we can solve the problem before coming to the table so you don’t think we haven’t responded,” said Oak Bay High school principal Dave Thomson, defending why he didn’t present any current site plans. “We have to ring in the architects. With architects, there is a certain amount of creativity that (they) put in. But from a school perspective, it doesn’t work.”
Thomson didn’t offer any details, but tried extinguishing concerns by saying a presentable preliminary design will be available for sharing in two weeks. Victoria school district’s building projects supervisor Jim Soles also defended not showing the current, preliminary design to council.
“It was the first cut from the review and it seemed too inappropriate to have too many eyes on that paper,” Soles said. “There is a statement of requirements and it is our intention to include everything the municipality wanted.”
However, attempts to ease concerns about the $52.5 million project didn’t go over well with all.
“How do you edit without the consultation?” asked Coun. Cairine Green. “How do you know the changes you are making are congruent with the municipality?”
“We want to be in on the planning process,” added Mayor Nils Jensen, saying there is anxiety regarding how much input the school district will incorporate into their final plans. “This is complicated and is probably the biggest project ever (in Oak Bay).”
Thomson acknowledged expectations are high as the new school will leave a lasting legacy for generations. The project itself will see the building of a new high school, community learning facility, child care facility and performing arts centre. However, the redevelopment is also being seen as a launching pad into further encouraging bicycle use and walking as primary methods of transportation within the district. Restoration and riparian zone repairing of Bowker Creek is also included in the redevelopment plan for the school.
“Almost daily there seems to be increased pressure with what people, and I use that term globally, want us to do,” Thomson said. “We want it to be a perfect plan. … But, at the very least, we want it to be acceptable for the community. We are limited by the amount of money for the whole project and the space.”
The rest of the meeting included a presentation by the Oak Bay Active Transportation Advisory Committee on making the school area conducive to bicycling. There was also discussion on whether to remove parking or a car lane on Cadboro Bay Road for a bike lane.
The district unanimously passed a motion requiring the school district to provide work plans, timelines and to consult with the district within a reasonable time frame before a building permit is issued. The school district anticipates applying for a building permit in November.