News that the sale of the Belmont secondary land from the Sooke School District to Sobey’s Inc. had been finalized stirred up emotions among many Belmont alumni.
Not surprisingly, some of the nearly three dozen commenters on the Gazette’s Facebook page took time to tap out their condolences to their alma mater, while others offered up a ‘good riddance’ style comment about the school.
On the same site since the early 1950s and physically merged with the old Elizabeth Fisher junior high in the 1970s, Belmont has been in dire need of replacement for some years now. With its sloping hallways and patchwork connections, it was only a matter of time before the school burst at the seams.
The growth of the student population, now numbering around 1,500, has largely mirrored that of the West Shore, for which Belmont is the lone local high school. The emergence of sports-based academies in the previous decade drew some area students to schools in Saanich or Oak Bay, but the majority of students on the West Shore have made the trek down Jacklin Road for their final grade school years.
Luckily for today’s local middle schoolers and Grade 9, 10 and possibly Grade 11 students at the existing facility, secondary schooling on the West Shore will soon enter a new era.
The new 1,200-student Belmont is underway a few minutes down the road at the former Glen Lake elementary site, while the 800-student Royal Bay High is under construction on the old gravel pit site in Colwood.
Change is often difficult, especially when one has positive memories of a place they spent a lot of time. But current and former students of Belmont will always have their memories.
Sure, a shiny, new facility is only one part of the learning environment. But we’re willing to bet students who move into the new schools after attending the existing Belmont will feel at least a little more inspired to learn.