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Alumni group wants education ministry to investigate Vic High land exchange

Friends of Vic High claim right-of-way granting was beyond SD61 board’s authority
Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is ongoing and the school expects to welcome students in 2023. One alumni group is not happy with a land exchange agreement between the school board and city that could have implications for the school’s Memorial Stadium and track. (Black Press Media file photo)

A Vic High alumni group is calling on the B.C.’s education minister to suspend and investigate a land transfer allowing a greenway to be built adjacent to the school’s track, as part of an approved affordable housing project.

Friends of Vic High (FOVH) made the demand in a letter Wednesday, claiming the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) board went beyond its authority by approving the land exchange agreement with the City of Victoria last June.

The agreement included granting a statutory right-of-way that allows for the Capital Region Housing Corporation’s Caledonia project to include an eight-metre pedestrian greenway adjacent to the Vic High track. The alumni question if this land disposal had ministerial approval.

Friends of Vic High argue the right-of-way leaves too little land to revitalize the school’s Memorial Stadium. The group also asserts this information was withheld from public consultations on the land exchange in 2019 and 2020.

“We demand you immediately order a suspension of any transfer of interests in land pending a full investigation of this matter by your office,” states an FOVH letter to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside.

Victoria council approved the 158-affordable-unit housing development last fall. During a public hearing prior to approval, some speakers voiced concerns about how it would impact the track and any future upgrades to it.

The eight-metre greenway easement was requested by Victoria, during the Caledonia project’s rezoning and development permit review process, to comply with the city’s Greenways Plan and the Official Community Plan, according to a spokesperson for the Capital Region Housing Corporation. The “people only greenway” is for active transportation and no vehicles are permitted to use it, unless there’s an emergency or the city needs to do maintenance.

READ: 158-unit affordable housing development moves forward in Victoria

READ: Childcare spots, artificial turf field, non-profit space included in Vic High expansion

Friends of Vic High said the school’s Memorial Stadium was left to deteriorate for more than 50 years as SD61 schools such as Oak Bay High saw continued investments for high-end infrastructure.

“Over the past few years, concerned Victorians have been witness to a troubling pattern of issues related to systemic inequality, systemic racism and fiscal mismanagement at SD61,” the alumni group stated in a press release.

Vic High is undergoing a $77.1-million renovation that includes retaining the existing exterior and rebuilding the interior of the school. That option was chosen over two cheaper ones to seismically upgrade the structure and its systems ($40 million) or build an entirely new school ($47 million).

A Ministry of Education response to Black Press Media said it is aware of the letter to the minister and will be responding through the appropriate channels. It didn’t respond to a follow-up question asking what that channel is.

SD61 said it has received a copy of the letter and is reviewing it.

READ: School Board votes for $73.3 million upgrade for Vic High, seeks provincial approval

READ: Greater Victoria trustees take civil action in efforts to have suspensions rescinded Follow us on Instagram.
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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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