Victoria High School is long overdue for seismic upgrades, but the district has a few options to consider, and they want to consult with the community before deciding on how to best proceed.
“Vic High is ranked as the highest, most vulnerable in terms of school buildings in our province,” School District 61 superintendent Piet Langstraat said. The building has a seismic rating of H-1, meaning it would keep people safe in the event of an emergency, but would not be safe for use after the fact.
“It’s a very vulnerable building,” he added.
To date, 17 of the district’s 27 buildings deemed “high-risk” have been upgraded. At Vic High, upgrades have been “approved in principle” but the district must present a project definition report for final funding approval.
A basic upgrade that would also address the building’s systems (the school’s boiler also needs to be replaced) could cost up to $70 million. To retain the exterior of the 104-year-old building and rebuild the interior – similar to what Central Middle School did – would run well over $100 million. To demolish the current structure and build a completely new school on the same land comes with a price tag in the $50-$60 million range.
“What we’re building or renovating today.. is not a school for today, it’s a school for fifty to sixty years from now,” Langstraat said.
Vic High opened May 1, 1914 just before the start of the First World War, and while the property is listed on the heritage registry, it is not a designated heritage building.
The school currently operates at capacity with 850 students in its 15,000 square metres. However, there are close to 300 students in the neighbourhood that can’t be accommodated at the school; roughly 1,150 students live in the catchment area.
A report from the district predicts 2,000 more students will enroll at Vic High in the next ten years, and a new school could accommodate 1,000 students.
“Not only does the board need to consider the safety of its buildings, but it needs to think about need into the future in terms of space,” Langstraat said.
The district is holding two open houses, April 7 from 9 a.m. until noon and April 18 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Vic High in the gymnasium. The community is encouraged to ask questions, and provide input that will then be presented to the Board of Education in May, before a decision is made in June.
In the meantime, you can check out the facilities plan and specific school information at sd.61.bc.ca or fill out an online survey, set to run during the month of April.