Cowichan Secondary’s next 8 years decided by Jan. 1

There’s a chance that, after years of waiting, the school district may find out before year’s end about a new Cow High

There’s a chance that, after years of waiting, the school district may find out before year’s end how close it is to achieving its goal of a replacement for aging Cowichan Secondary School.

Even that snippet of information would be a step forward, according to Jason Sandquist, secretary-treasurer for the Cowichan Valley school district.

“You can then do some real planning. If you know you’re getting a new school in five years, you won’t do certain things. But if you know for sure that you’re not getting one, it’s a different story,” he said.

He told the school board on Nov. 1 that the Ministry of Education is reviewing the submissions for new schools from districts by the end of this calendar year.

“What’s new about that is the ministry will now tell you if you are on the list, on the bubble, or not in the program for the next eight years,” he said.

“So when we hear back from this, we’ll have a better idea of where Cowichan Secondary is in the ministry’s planning cycle. In the past that information has not been available and has not been communicated so you don’t know if you’re in the top third, the bottom third or the middle third.”

To buttress the district’s application, the board decided to clarify that it is looking at a “single campus” replacement school.

The board had planned a public conversation later this month about a review of the current dual campus situation, and also of an idea put forward during the last school year to split the two campuses into two separate high schools with different approaches to education.

That second subject prompted a furious response from the Cowichan Secondary School community and other education watchers, which led to that idea being shoved to the back burner, at least until a public consultation could be held in the fall.

However, this is not the time to be muddying the waters with talk about two schools or even more talk about the current two campuses, trustees decided, choosing to call off the consultation session altogether.

Board chair Candace Spilsbury said it is important to keep up with what the Education Ministry is doing.

“Things are changing all the time. We’re working with the ministry. Right now, we need to stop looking at creating two new secondary schools, for example, when we are asking for the opposite of that.”

A recent meeting with ministry officials saw them smiling on the idea of a new, single high school for the Valley, without actually giving any more details. However, it was not a step backward, so in the long, long road to replacing Cowichan Secondary, district officials are fanning the hopeful flame.

Schools superintendent Rod Allen said it was worthwhile to ensure the district’s application was well-focused now that “we have a very clear direction now from the ministry about moving to a single school.”