After years of planning, four public consultations and a focus group session, the new St. Michaels University Junior school is coming into focus.
Plans to replace the current facility nestled in a residential area in Oak Bay have been completed and will be submitted to Oak Bay council for a variance permit at a committee of the whole meeting April 22.
“We are proposing a new building, razing what we have to the ground and starting from scratch,” said St. Michaels director of communications Laura Authier. “Our aspiration is two years to have the project start, but that is far from definite.”
At its location since 1918, with the current building dating back to 1959, Authier said the time is now to replace the aging school. They are currently fundraising the capital needed for the multi-million dollar project. They hope to begin construction in two years and take under 16 months to finish, Authier said.
“This location (has been) part of the school since 1918, we want to stay in that area but we want to make sure the building is evolving at the same place as our programs,” she said. “What we thought about teaching and learning in the 1960s and what we think about it now, the size, shape, design and layout of it are completely different than what we need today.”
The proposed building will however, need to get through council first. They are looking for an extra 30-centimetre (one-foot) side yard set back variance on either side of the building and to address traffic issues and the potential for parking problems, especially for the neighbours of the primarily residential area.
Oak Bay Coun. Tara Ney, who attended the consultations, hopes an agreement can be reached for the proposed Paul Merrick-designed facility featuring access to outdoor spaces, increased interaction between classrooms and a 38-spot underground parking lot to help mitigate the potential for traffic and parking issues.
“Philosophically, it is a wonderful idea for an educational facility. It’s like a campus connected to the environment,” she said. “It’s a marvelous educational concept. Everyone would want their child to be in this kind of learning environment. I feel positive if we can find the right platform to work through the thorny issues, good solutions will materialize.”
The proposed facility is scheduled to open in time for the 2017-2018 academic year.