Upgrades to Victoria High School are set to start in August, despite disruptions to education from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fernwood-based high school’s terracotta, brick and granite masonry exterior will be retained during the seismic upgrading project which, along with additional enhancements and amenities, is expected to be complete by September 2022.
“COVID impacts everything, but in terms of our plan for the project, we expect it to go full steam ahead and are hopeful we will be able to deliver it on time and on budget as planned,” said Greater Victoria School District (SD61) board chair Jordan Watters. “We’re hopeful this is one thing that won’t be put off and it looks like it should all just come together.”
Victoria High School was built in 1914 and received additions in 1955 and 2011. Some of the building’s interior features, like marble, art glass and painted wood panels, will also be preserved in the upgrading process.
The upgrades are funded by $77.1 million from the province and a fruitful land exchange between SD61 and the City of Victoria.
SD61 is leasing the land it acquired from the City – previously located under the Fairey Technical building – to the Capital Regional District for 60 years, an agreement putting more than $2 million in SD61’s pocket to help pay for a higher-cost seismic option and additional expansions.
The land exchange also left the school district with some extra cash, and after a public consultation, SD61’s Board of Education voted to spend $1.1 million on new spaces for physical education and health learning, a multipurpose observatory deck, improvements to the memorial stadium and theatre and additional upgrades to the school’s gyms.
Watters says Vic High is the heart of the community, and plans to improve the facility have been in the works for decades.
“It’s served a century of students,” she said. “Our plan is to build a Vic High that will serve generations of Vic High students for another 100 years.
“It’s a pretty special place with a pretty special history and we’re trying to make sure it has a pretty special future too.”
During renovations, students will be moved to SJ Willis, or the ‘Vic High Topaz Campus,’ as the school has dubbed its temporary location.
The Topaz campus will house comparable facilities for typical programming, according to the school, with the exception of trades programs.
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