After listening to feedback from the community, St. John’s Academy in Shawnigan Lake has significantly scaled back plans for what was originally intended to be an approximately $50 million major expansion and renovation.
Matt Jonah, the academy’s director of admissions and marketing, said the school has developed what it believes is a more realistic plan for the site and the community, and the revised plan was presented to the public in a Fun Fair at the academy on May 28.
However, he said the new plan still calls for expanding the school from a Grade 4-12 facility to K-12, which will result in approximately 200 additional local students at the academy, in addition to the existing capacity that allows for about 200 boarding students and 100 local pupils as well.
“The facilities proposed [in the updated plan] include additional classroom space, a new rooftop soccer pitch, gymnasium and cafeteria on a small footprint that will allow the new South Campus building to be integrated into the hillside and minimize the disturbance to the local ecosystem,” Jonah said.
“This new building will be located on the south side of the existing campus, off of Stowood Road. As well, the school is planning to upgrade the water and septic system to a more sustainable solution, including Class A septic, and moving away from drawing water from the aquifer by continuing to draw from the lake, and relying more heavily on low flow fixtures, water harvesting, and other green solutions.”
Jonah said the updated project also aims to deliver benefits to the community; including providing new green space on the waterfront, and the use of school facilities during non-peak times for local and community-based programs.
The academy is looking to provide an affordable private school option, and provide an opportunity for local students to interact with international students for an enriched multicultural experience.
As well, many of the school’s current facilities are aging and require upgrades, and the revised plan still hopes to deal with these issues.
Jonah said the academy plans to continue to update, improve and maintain the current campus buildings and landscaping in incremental stages as it’s been doing over the last three years.
He said the school is still working closely with the students, faculty and the local community to continue to develop a plan for the school that can benefit the overall learning objectives and community integration opportunities, but the $50-million price tag that was originally proposed for the project will be much lower, and the estimate that approximately 100 new teachers and another 150 new non-teaching positions would be needed for the expansion is now down to between 25 and 50 new staff.
“More detailed design work would be undertaken next year if the Cowichan Valley Regional District approves a zoning change from residential to school zone to allow the expansion to proceed,” Jonah said.
“We don’t have a revised cost estimate at this time, but the scope of the project has been significantly lowered from the previous estimates and projections.”
Jonah said it’s hoped the expansion to allow the school to offer K-12 for the first time will be completed by the fall of 2026.
“The school is working through a rezoning application process, and hopes to have the CVRD board consider the proposed school zone later this year,” he said. “ If the CVRD board approves the change in zoning, additional community engagement, detailed design, and technical studies would be initiated.”