Lately when the project manager for the $50-million Oak Bay High replacement project has driven past Belmont and Royal Bay secondary schools in the Sooke School District, he has allowed himself to gloat just a bit. The construction of Oak Bay High is on budget and ahead of schedule, facts that have John Scheeren, senior superintendent with contractor Farmer Construction, delighted – especially in light of projects of a similar magnitude which aren’t as far along.
“School’s moving in,” said Scheeren on Thursday, when the demolition of the second gym was officially complete. “We’re pretty proud of that because we compare ourselves to the other two schools and they’re not even close to where we’re at and we all started at the same time.”
The Metchosin man doesn’t have much time to ponder the details of the Belmont project as he passes on his morning commute, with approximately 110 tradespeople on site in Oak Bay and work surging ahead. The Oak Bay High replacement, which has been in talks for more than two decades, has been divided into five areas, labelled A through E. All but section E, the second gymnasium where the technical education wing will stand, are complete.
“The framing is up, the building is up, the roofs are on, the windows are going in and the interior framing, drywalling and finishing is going in,” Scheeren said. “Much of the work that we normally do at the end of a job is being done now so we can make way for the turnover of the gymnasiums.”
The approach could mean turning over classrooms a little ahead of schedule: in early April 2015, as opposed to late June, as per his original plan. The first gymnasium is likely to be complete by late this September, with the second gymnasium expected the following month.
Scheeren’s healthy competition with the West Shore projects may be rooted in his past address. The former Oak Bay resident now enthuses over the school’s Neighbourhood Learning Centre, which he considers a community centre within the school – and a good way to maximize the $50-million investment.
The building was initially planned as a seismic upgrade, before trustees of the Greater Victoria School District decided it would be less costly to build a new site, recalled Peg Orcherton, chair of the board and longtime trustee.
“It’s taken since 1993 to get us to where we are today,” Orcherton said of what she’s certain is the district’s largest project ever undertaken. “It’s the biggest one in my time, anyway. I can’t see any more building like this in the future given the government’s current economic stance, so I would consider Oak Bay High’s as being the only one we’ll see for some time.”
The new school represents a culmination of much consultation with school and district staff, community and Oak Bay council, she added.
For Schereen, the behemoth is not only an amazing learning institution, but one of the more coordinated projects with which Farmer has ever been involved.
“There are these little moments of frustration when you’re waiting for some information to come down the pipeline so that it gets incorporated into the design, but all in all an awful lot of thought was put into how the school was to be constructed and the amenities that the teaching staff, the school district and the administrators were looking for,” he said. “They’re done a tremendous job putting all of that information together.”