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Progress underway to upgrade one of B.C.’s ‘most seismically unsafe’ schools in Port Renfrew

‘Current school is made of cinderblock with mortar that would be dust in a strong breeze’
Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Jeff Jones said his community has been waiting for news of seismic upgrades to the elementary school for decades. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Progress is being made on a long-awaited seismic upgrade to the elementary school in Port Renfrew.

The Sooke School District announcing funding for the project’s business plan on Friday (March 31). It will lay out the groundwork for improving the school, which is “one of the most seismically unsafe in the province,” according to Sooke School District board chair Ravi Parmar.

Parmar said the project is the district’s number one priority. Work on the plan, with provincial backing, has begun and the district expects to submit it to the province within a number of weeks.

Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Jeff Jones said the news is something people in his community have been waiting to hear for decades.

Lobbying efforts by SD62, as well as the Pacheedaht and the province, are also ongoing for the federal government to fund a school for Grade 6 to 12 students in Port Renfrew. Currently, students of those ages have to bus for nearly 2 hours each way to attend school in Sooke.

“Our graduation rate is very, very low. To get to school every day in Grade 12 is a challenge. Kids are dealing with winter storms, trees over the line, and situations like that. So (they’re) missing school many, many days during the winter because it’s very challenging and it does throw you back on your education.,” said Jones.

He added a number of families left the community after the logging industry died down in the area, but improvements to the elementary school and a potential new middle and high school down the line should help achieve its goal of bringing members back home.

READ MORE: Former premier, Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan is leaving provincial politics

Speaking at what will likely be one of his last announcements as an MLA, John Horgan said seismic improvements have been a long time coming.

“The current school is made of cinderblock with mortar that would be dust in a strong breeze and they get a breeze or two in Port Renfrew. If heaven forbid there’d be a seismic event, the people of Port Renfrew are supposed to muster at the unsafe school and wait for help.

“So I don’t have to highlight the absurdity of that it speaks for itself.”

Horgan announced he would step away from his position as an MLA in February, after announcing in June 2022 he was stepping down as premier. A date for a byelection has not yet been set for Horgan’s riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca, where voters first elected him in 2005. He won the riding with almost 67 per cent of cast votes in 2020.

“I’ve got other things to not do today. So I’ll get busy on practicing that. But it is it has been the honour of my life to represent this constituency. It has been so exciting the past couple of weeks to just be John again and discover that it’s OK. In fact, it’s way better to just be John again.”

READ MORE: SD62 capital plan includes seismic upgrades for Port Renfrew, 3 new West Shore schools


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Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care outside the Sooke School District office in Langford on March 31. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)