The Cowichan Valley school district is almost ready to formally request that the province build a brand new facility to replace the aging Cowichan Secondary School.
The district is currently in the final stages of the project definition report process, which lays out the scope and objectives of the construction of the new high school for the Ministry of Education, and is now looking for letters of support for the new, 1,500-capacity school, considered to be its No. 1 capital priority, from local governments.
In its request for support from the local governments, the district pointed out in its project overview that Cowichan Secondary School is 69 years old, and, as of 2018, requires an estimated $75 million in repairs to bring it up to current seismic safety requirements.
As of 2015, the district said five out of six blocks of the school have been assessed as being seismically high risk.
“That risk is not acceptable for the learners, educators, or the community, who are in urgent need of a safe and functional place to learn,” the district said.
The district also said that since the 2014/15 school year, it has been experiencing a significant increase in enrolment, after years of decreases.
“This rapid increase, which is predicted to continue as the Cowichan Valley grows, coupled with the restored class size and composition language, puts the need for a secondary school with increased learner capacity at the forefront of the district’s capital planning,” the district said.
If approved by the Ministry of Education, the new school, whose costs have yet to be determined, will be built at Cowichan Place.
Envisioned by the district, Vancouver Island University and local governments since 2004, the Cowichan Place concept includes the new secondary school, which would be located next to the VIU Cowichan Campus and the Cowichan Valley Regional District recreation complex, on land that the school district already acquired with the approval and funding from the Ministry of Education.
The concept includes a Trades Training Centre of Excellence, which would be jointly operated by the school district and VIU and highly endorsed by Cowichan Tribes.
The training centre will offer current and relevant trades training opportunities for learners and adults, which will add much-needed skilled labour to the provincial economy.
“Cowichan Place will benefit future generations of citizens in the Cowichan Valley,” the district said.
“Realizing this plan requires the current government to make a large investment into capital infrastructure for B.C. schools.”
Mike Russell, a spokesman for the district, said it’s hoped that all local governments will have their letters of support for the school project filed with the district by Jan. 25.
“We don’t expect to receive an answer from the provincial government anytime soon,” he said.
“We set the deadline for the letters from the local governments because we want to make sure we have all out ‘i’s dotted and the ‘t’s crossed on our submission to the ministry as soon as possible.”