As part of its planning for the future, the School district 79 board of education is beginning to look for new school spaces. (Citizen file)

As part of its planning for the future, the School district 79 board of education is beginning to look for new school spaces. (Citizen file)

New schools on horizon for the Cowichan Valley?

Potential need for more school sites in the future

A Supreme court decision resulting in the return to the same student class size and composition levels in place in 2002 has resulted in the board of education for School District 79 looking ahead.

Already operating at near capacity, and with the population expected to grow, SD79 board chair Candace Spilsbury has reached out to local governments on the issue of potential school site acquisition.

“What we’re doing it just alerting our local government agencies that we’ll be approaching them with regard to our space needs,” she said Tuesday.

Duncan mayor Phil Kent confirmed his council was among the local governments to receive a letter.

“All school districts are planning to have to use space that they already have and there’s a demand for more space to accommodate that court decision,” Kent said in response to Spilsbury’s letter. “From the school board’s perspective this is part of the planning process to ensure they can meet those objectives.”

Spilsbury announced the school board has commissioned a demographic study which should give them an indication as to their growth, the growth areas and the timing in terms of future needs.

“It’s really hard to know because we’re not sure about our enrollment,” she admitted. “In the past two years it’s increased by 150 children a year. If that happens we could be looking at needing more space ASAP. If it has mellowed and our enrollment numbers, our growth, does not increase significantly, then we may be able to continue as we are doing.”

The school board has already addressed the need for portables to manage growth at certain schools for the coming school year.

The school district has property in North Cowichan to accommodate a new secondary school but no decisions have been made by the province as to when that will be developed.

“I think there’s general support in the community for development of that single secondary school campus,” Kent said.

Kent said due to Duncan’s size, it’s not likely a new school would be built within the city’s boundaries. That’s not to say should the need arise, existing buildings couldn’t be used — but it would have to make sense.

“I think this is just really part of that identification of opportunities and for us to all be cognizant of the need that there will be more space needed,” Kent said.

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