Staff, students eye new Oak Bay High taking shape

While class is officially out for the summer, plenty of work is still going on at Oak Bay High

John Scheeren stands in front of the new Oak Bay High building. The project manager with Farmer Construction graduated from Oak Bay High himself in 1975.

John Scheeren stands in front of the new Oak Bay High building. The project manager with Farmer Construction graduated from Oak Bay High himself in 1975.

While class is officially out for the summer, plenty of work is still going on at Oak Bay High.

“They’re deconstructing the east building right now. It’s staged, depending on what they need to do. That area has to be done very quickly because it’s impacting all of the main power supply lines,” said Oak Bay High principal Dave Thomson.

The new $55-million, 151,000-square-foot school is set to open in September. With up to 150 workers on site during the busiest period, that number is now down to about 60.

John Scheeren, project manager with Farmer Construction Ltd., expects to have all the work complete by April 2016.

“We’re building a tremendous building here and we’re really proud of that,” said Scheeren, who expects to have the old school buildings down by late September or early October. Crews are currently salvaging some of the heritage aspects from the old buildings.

“We do respect the heritage aspect of the old school so we really want to retain that,” said Scheeren, himself a 1975 Oak Bay High grad.

“There are people that hate to see these heritage buildings come down, but that building was done. You should see what we’re running into as we do the demo – I mean if this building ever suffered an earthquake it would kill every kid in the classroom.”

He said they have now received the occupancy permit for the new school buildings, which will allow school administration to begin setting up for the coming school year.

Thomson said staff and students all cast a glance over their shoulders at the old buildings as they left the school after the final bell sounded for the school year.

“I think that there’s kind of a sad, bit of a melancholy acceptance, [along with an] excitement about the new building,” he said.

“I think all of us at some point along the way have walked out of the doors and said, ‘Wow, it’s sad.’ Each one of us has shed a tear in our own way.”

Thomson said staff has been busy for quite some time preparing for the move, adding it was a fair amount of work to remove all the items that teachers have accumulated over the years.

“The building itself has not aged very well over the last couple of years. There’s recognition of the fact that now all of the warts are really visible. Of course, as you remove things from the walls and furniture starts to leave it becomes more and more evident why it was necessary to replace the building.

The sadness of turning a page on the original 1929 building is tempered by the work that still lies ahead.

“We’re excited to be getting a new building but we also know that we’re not finished yet. As the buildings come down, there’s two fields that have to be constructed, there’s a lot of heavy equipment going to be operating at least for another six or eight months.”

But when the work finally wraps up, the state-of-the-art new school will more than make up for the long wait and steady disruptions.

“The constant message from my staff, the students who have had the opportunity to go in and the visitors who come, it’s jaw-droppingly spectacular,” Thomson said.

He said he’s given a few tours to some of the teachers that have been recently assigned to the school.

“Literally, their jaws do drop and they kind of walk around with a glazed look, saying ‘Is this for real?’ I think that’s why it’s so exciting, it’s because it is a very, very spectacular high school building.”