The Greater Victoria School District’s Board of Education has a tough task ahead with the disposition of Victoria High School.
The 94-year-old structure is a throwback to the past, a time when the region had one high school and students travelled from far and wide to attend classes. As the population shifted to the suburbs, other high schools emerged and reduced that travel time for families.
Vic High may well be the last school standing in the province that was built as a monolithic, four-storey structure designed to hold the entirety of a city’s high schoolers.
In 2018, the reality is Vic High wouldn’t be a safe place for students or staff in the event of a major earthquake. While it may seem sturdy enough to those who have walked its hallways in recent decades, modern standards require more adequate assurance that people inside a building will be safe if and when a disaster strikes.
The tough task for the board involves deciding which route to go with this iconic and historic element of the Victoria landscape. The options, which the public can weigh in on starting Saturday; include a full seismic upgrade to shore up potential hazards, demolishing the current building and constructing a new school, and retaining the facade and rebuilding the interior.
All are costly choices, but the province has placed Vic High atop its seismic safety priority list and agrees the work must be done sooner than later.
With so many Vic High alumni in our midst, there will be emotional arguments made to retain at least the existing facade of the building. If that cannot be done safely or without incurring far greater cost, the era of the four-storey brick school will likely be over for our city.
No matter what happens, the memories the school created, good and not-so-good, will live on in its thousands of grads. And if it is to be demolished, we’re certain the old school won’t go down without an appropriate sendoff.