The long-anticipated replacement of Cowichan Secondary School will be considered as part of a new initiative by the Ministry of Education.
The replacement of the old school, built in 1949 and the largest secondary school in the district, is the No. 1 capital priority for the Cowichan Valley school district.
The ministry has recently confirmed the school will be supported under its seismic mitigation program and has given the district the green light to proceed to the next phase of project planning.
Three options are available for the school; a seismic upgrade only that has been estimated to cost more than $27 million, a seismic upgrade and partial replacement, or the replacement of the entire school.
A detailed assessment of need, options, costs, benefits and design of all three options is to be developed and submitted to the ministry by Oct. 25.
Once submitted, the ministry will confirm which option it supports and will request the funding from government.
Once approved, a capital funding agreement will be signed with the district and it’s anticipated that the district will find out either late this year, or in early 2019, which option will be supported.
“This is a very significant step forward for the Cowichan Secondary School project, and we are excited by the news that the project is receiving support from the ministry,” said Candace Spilsbury, chairwoman of the Cowichan Valley school district.
“Our community definitely wants a new school that better meets the needs of our students, and while we still have a way to go, we are excited that we can move forward to the next phase.”
Since 2004, the school district has been working with local institutions and government agencies towards the development of “Cowichan Place”.
The multi-million dollar plan that was unveiled at the time called for a 30-acre campus adjacent to the Island Savings Centre that would encompass a new Cowichan Secondary School, Vancouver Island University and park space.
In 2008, land was purchased by the district and funded by the ministry as its part of the Cowichan Place plan.
However, while construction of VIU’s campus moved forward on the site, the land for the school continues to remain vacant and the new Cowichan Secondary is now the final piece needed to complete the Cowichan Place vision.
The school district has previously examined several options for upgrading or replacing the school, and has developed a strong business case demonstrating that a new 1,500-student-capacity secondary school on the Cowichan Place site is the best option for students and for the community.
“We continue to strongly advocate for a new Grade 8-12 school that will provide the kind of environment more suited to modern, innovative learning,” said Rod Allen, superintendent of the school district.
“There is a significant opportunity here to build a new school that closely connects our students with our local post-secondary partner, which will only help our students succeed in their chosen career or life path.”