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New school plan moving forward

OB High 1 - EC
Grade 12 Oak Bay High students Martene Hartnell

Receiving district approval means Oak Bay High plans will head to province next

Colourful drawings of a modern building surrounded by large sports fields were splashed on the walls of Oak Bay High’s cafeteria this week.

The designs show an agreed-upon plan for the school’s proposed new incarnation, which was approved by the Greater Victoria School District Monday night.

District board chair Tom Ferris is excited about the project, which includes a neighbourhood learning centre.

“Educationally, this project is very exciting,” he said. “It serves as a model here and in the province.”

It took months of co-operation between school staff and students, municipal councillors, the school district and representatives from the Ministry of Education to get to this point.

The drawings show a school with capacity for 1,300 students, and spaces available for community activities on evenings, weekends and during the summer break. There are two large sports fields and a large theatre.

Grade 12 student Martene Hartnell was part of a committee that provided input on students’ priorities for the new school.

“It was neat to be involved in the process and have our voices heard,” she said. Students identified open spaces for social gatherings, more windows, fine arts space and green building initiatives as important features.

Though Hartnell will have graduated by the time the new school is scheduled to open in 2012, she said she wanted it to be a good space for her sister, Alena, who is in Grade 9, to use.

The neighbourhood learning centre, which offers space to community groups, was a natural part of the new school’s plans and is key in the mission to secure funding, said principal Dave Thomson.

“This is just a natural kind of marriage of two organizations,” he said, referring to the school and Recreation Oak Bay, which will share the space.

“Let’s embrace the entire community and make it as good as we can. We can only do this once a century, so we’d better do it right.”

The municipality has pledged $1 million toward the theatre. The school district added $1.4 million to increase the new school’s capacity from 1,200 to 1,300 students.

The education ministry has indicated it could provide more funding if the neighbourhood learning centre is included in plans. The total cost of the project is now estimated at $64 million.

The process

• Architectural drawings of the planned Oak Bay High replacement school must now be finalized.

• Once that is complete, the Education Ministry will apply to the province’s treasury board for funding of the project.

• Construction could start next spring, and could finish in winter 2012.