The Sooke School District saw its second-highest annual growth in its student population this year.
There are approximately 600 new students this school year, the second-biggest increase the district has seen. Last year still holds the record with 827 new students.
“There’s lots of families moving to this part of the world – from other parts of the world – lots of English language learning students. Belmont Secondary School is, for the first time in its (new) history, at capacity. We’re actually turning Belmont students away and referring them over to Royal Bay Secondary,” said Ravi Parmar, SD62 school board chair.
Belmont currently has a capacity of 1,550 students with the portables currently on site.
It’s not the only one, throughout the district, schools are brimming with students. The newly opened Centre Mountain Lellum Middle School is just under capacity, sitting at around 550 students out of a possible 700, according to Parmar. But the school is “receiving probably half a dozen new registrants every week.”
Royal Bay Secondary School is over capacity. The largest secondary school in the district with a capacity of 1,400 seats currently has around 1,500 students attending classes there.
“We’ll be adding portables and I expect probably two to three years from now we’ll be back to about 10 portables like it was when we first opened it. So there’s need for a secondary school, need for elementary schools and probably another middle school in the future too.”
The district’s capital plan this year includes new schools in north Langford and in the Royal Bay neighbourhood of Colwood. While funding hasn’t been secured yet, the plan proposes they’ll be completed during the 2024-25 school year.
Also in the plan are seismic upgrades for the Port Renfrew Elementary School, which Parmar believes is “the most seismically unsafe school in the province.”
The upgrades will see the existing school be built into a kindergarten through Grade 12 campus in Port Renfrew and is a partnership between SD62 and Pacheedaht Nation.
“We’ve certainly, I think, expressed our case for not only having schools but also being good stewards of public dollars. We have a lot of admiration for our executive team, the superintendent and the team he leads. Even with challenges, we’re able to deliver projects – maybe sometimes not on time – but also under budget, which is really important.”