École Willows School gets portable classrooms by fall

Two portables built in-house by the district will go to Willows Elementary, one to Quadra Elementary

Willows is among eight schools in the Greater Victoria School District set to receive portables over the course of the summer, just in time for the 2017 and 2018 school year.

The portables will be purchased, built or shifted among the schools. In total, 84 classes have been added across the district for the upcoming school year.

“Some [portables] will start to be delivered in August, others in early September, so it’s a pretty tight timeline, but they’re working really hard to get them in place before the school year,” said School District 61 spokesperson Katie Hamilton.

Portables will be added at Willows, Quadra, Campus View, Oaklands, Cloverdale Traditional School, Margaret Jenkins, Central and Reynolds.

Cloverdale will also receive six new parking stalls for daycare.

Hamilton says the portables are the result of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that requires classes to be smaller in all school districts across the province. In other words, the number of students per class must be smaller than what it was before, as well the composition of how all those classes are made up.

“We’re a growing district, so we do have more students, but at the same time, if we didn’t have more students, we’d still need far more classrooms to accomodate students,” she said, adding the Greater Victoria school district is expected to grow by 2,000 students in the next 10 years.

In addition to more portables, the school district is also trying out in-house construction of three portables to determine whether the alternative to contract-built portables will be more cost effective. The three portables constructed in-house will be located at Ecole Willows Elementary and École Quadra Elementary.

“We’re costing every nut and bolt to see if we can do it cheaper, as well as have a higher-quality and longer-lasting product,” said Mark Walsh, the district’s secretary-treasurer, adding that majority of portables being installed will still be purchased externally, at least for the time being.

Walsh pointed out that the emphasis right now is on building and implementing the portables, while outside aesthetics will be left for later in the fall once construction is complete.

An added focus for the district this year is to maintain and grow its offerings of child care in its schools, Hamilton noted, though the process of keeping classrooms open to both students and child care services has been difficult.

“It’s really important to us that we have child care offered in our schools, but the requirement of the Supreme Court decision is that if you have space, it must be used for a classroom first… we’ve tried really hard to accomodate our child care and work with them on other options in terms of shared space and portables,” she said.

One thing’s for certain; while September is only a month a way or so, it’s starting to look like a busy year for the school district.

“September will be very interesting to see, because we’ve got a lot of moving parts,” Walsh said.

octavian.lacatusu @oakbaynews.com

 

Work is underway at the School District 61’s facilities yard where three portables are being built for Willows and Quadra elementary schools. (Contributed photo)

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