The future of the old Cowichan Secondary School on James Street is still unclear when it closes its doors for good in June, but a majority of people who participated in surveys and public-engagement sessions on the issue don’t want it to be continued to be used for education programs.
The Cowichan Valley School District saw 222 people participate in its surveys and public engagement sessions that were held over the last few months, with 154 opposed to its continued use for educational programming in the district, 64 who favoured it and four who preferred other options.
As for whether the district should dispose of the building and property, 136 said yes, 87 said no and eight wanted another option.
A number of suggestions were also offered if the school district decides to keep the school, including developing it into a post-secondary facility or a museum, using it as an emergency-weather shelter, renting it for conferences, or using it for low-cost housing.
No decision has yet been made by the school board on the future of the old Cowichan Secondary School when the new Quw’utsun Secondary School, which will replace it, opens in September and the old school will be vacant for the first time in its more than 70-year history of educating thousands of students from the Cowichan Valley.
The old school, which was built seven years before the first satellite circled the Earth, had been a centrepiece of Duncan for decades, but is now ancient and considered unsafe.
Mike Russell, the district’s communications director, said more consultations with local governments on the future of the old school still have to be held, and other processes completed, before the board makes a decision.
He said the structure does contain asbestos, but like in many schools, offices, and residences around North America, there is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed.
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“This could be a consideration if the board decides to re-purpose the school, or a consideration if the school is sold and to be re-used or demolished,” Russell said.
The new three-storey Quw’utsun Secondary School on nearby University Way will be approximately 11,975 square metres and built for 1,100 students, with the ability to expand to house 1,500 students with the addition of new classrooms when it opens.
According to the latest financial figures from the district, the province is providing $83.8 million for the replacement as part of its seismic mitigation program, while the Cowichan Valley school district is providing $2.2 million.