Greater Victoria School District board of education vice-chair Bev Horsman

Greater Victoria School District board of education vice-chair Bev Horsman

Oak Bay ‘once in a lifetime’ project moves forward

New Oak Bay High site preparation gets underway

  • Jul. 9, 2013 7:00 p.m.

Dave Thomson is a details guy who relishes getting stuff done.

As the school’s point man for the Oak Bay High replacement project, the principal has been involved in everything from arranging public consultations and speaking with neighbours to going over the plans to make sure they jibe with what has been asked for.

Some time before emceeing Friday’s sod-turning ceremony on Oak Bay High’s main playing field, officially kicking off construction, he was busy softening up a spot for the shovels to go in the ground.

The upbeat administrator was even more excited after joining school district and government dignitaries in hoisting a shovelful of dirt for a photo-op.

“This is a once in a 75- to 100-year chance to get it done and do it the right way,” Thomson said of the $52-million project, which includes the new school, a community learning centre and a performing arts venue.

Closely involved with the project since it began life in 2002 as a potential seismic upgrade for the school – the oldest section was built in 1929 – Thomson is pleased with how the priorities established through the multitude of consultations have taken shape.

“I’m proud of the stick-to-it-ness of everyone involved,” he said, referring to the retention of design, functionality and community connection elements of the facility.

“I’ve gone through the plans with a fine-tooth comb and I can’t find any place where it stepped back from (those established priorities).”

And there’s more consultation to come. A public open house was scheduled for last night at the school (after the News went to press) to bring the community up to speed on the project, and Thomson expects further such gatherings to help fine tune things as the project moves along.

Mayor Nils Jensen has sat through many discussions about the new school as a member of Oak Bay council. He agreed the project has been a team effort almost from the start.

“I would describe this as a grand collaboration which brings in the province, the municipality, the school district and the community, and that’s what I think will guarantee the success of the project,” he said.

Former Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong, who was instrumental in moving the project from a seismic upgrade to a full replacement, anticipates the new facility becoming a centrepiece for Oak Bay.

“I think it will be an inclusive, community place rather than just a high school,” she said.

Greater Victoria School District board chair Peg Orcherton added that the new Oak Bay High “will be a crown jewel of schools around the province.”

Local builder Farmer Construction is due to begin preparation work soon on the site.

Adjustments made

due to construction

Given that the footprint for the new Oak Bay High will be on what are now rugby, soccer and ball fields, outdoor sports teams at the school will largely be practising and playing elsewhere for the next couple of seasons, said rugby coach and teacher Murray Allen. Oak Bay Parks has offered up Carnarvon and Windsor parks for use by the school in the interim, Allan said.

Construction will force other changes to the school site, such as the creation of a safe pathway for students moving between the two existing buildings.

The new building, designed to be LEED gold certified, will include recycled materials. Wood from a large Lebanon cedar tree due to be taken down as part of the construction – it is said to be diseased – will be used in the new school. As well, elements from the existing buildings, such as the colourful mosaics in the east building entrance ways and the solar panels on the roof, will be transferred into the new facility.