Inside the old Metchosin school building, a menagerie of organizations are setting roots.
The Metchosin Arts and Cultural Centre rents out cheap studio space to community artisans.
The Senior’s Resource Centre offers services and socialization to elderly residents. Mile Zero may soon open up a nano-brewery taproom if approved by district council.
But across the hall in the old elementary school, Instinct Training Centre has welcomed emergency service members from fire, police, medical and coast guard services for training courses in everything from hazmat scene management to shotgun safety courses.
The District of Metchosin bought the building in 2017 after years of closure and rented out space to various community groups. Instinct’s Ed Banks, in the business since 2008, moved here in 2020 and offers safety training courses to emergency responders and classes such as first aid for the general public.
“The building itself was perfect for our needs: having a space that was essentially a blank slate – because it was in pretty dilapidated condition when we took it on,” Banks said. “But we’ve been slowly chipping away at renovating it and upgrading everything. We took this venue that in theory was perfect, but a little bit old, and we could update it to exactly the standard and layout that we want.”
The room now has three decked-out classrooms used by Instinct Training. The district also received a grant to refurbish the school’s old gymnasium, which will be a great space not only for EMS training, but the community, said Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop. There’s also a vacant lot behind the building with space to run hazmat scenarios and simulated fire investigations.
Initially, Banks was hesitant to move out to the rural community, but he said it has been worth it.
“It’s actually turned out to be a positive. A lot of people actually like coming out of the busy areas and coming to the beautiful town of Metchosin,” he said. “We’ve got great cafes across the street. It’s actually a good thing that we’re a little bit detached from the main population centres.”
Neighbours and the community have been supportive and Dunlop has been a big help, Banks said, pushing for more training opportunities for the district’s fire agency and others as well. Having the space has helped fire services from different municipalities get together, Dunlop said, adding they’ve had agencies from almost every type of emergency response provider. The centre also hosted training for B.C.’s Wildfire Service in May last year.
Both Banks and Dunlop said there were few spaces like it to conduct training on the Island, meaning Metchosin is filling a gap.
“It’s unique in that we have the facility here to be able to do the training, which is the combination of the classroom and the simulation training that emergency responders need,” Dunlop said.
Mayor John Ranns agreed the facility has been a success and hope it becomes a “regional centre” for emergency services training.