The Greater Victoria School District Board of Education has voted in favour of a $73.3 million upgrade for Victoria High School.
The century-old school has been at the centre of a debate over whether to build an entirely new school to meet safety standards and capacity needs, or update the current space.
Board members voted for the seismic plus enhancements option, which includes upgrading the current building’s safety standards, adding capacity for 200 students and building a neighbourhood learning centre.
“We heard from more than 1,700 members of the community who strongly expressed the importance of school amenities and preserving this building due to its long history and landmark role in the community,” board chair Edith Loring-Kuhanga said in a statement. “Our staff have worked hard over the recent months to find a way to retain the original characteristics of the school while creating an improved learning environment for generations to come.”
Seismic upgrades will retain the exterior of the main four-storey building by enhancing the interior, with an emphasis on modernizing learning spaces for staff and students. New additions will include concrete stairwells, updates to the mechanical systems and the installation of a new fire sprinkler system.
Plans include a two-storey addition to the east side of the school that will allow for 200 more seats, increasing the school’s capacity to 1,000.
“The board had to take into consideration the need for more space due to growing student enrolment,” Loring-Kuhanga said. “Victoria High School has reached capacity and we’re seeing a continuous upward trajectory in student projections for this and neighbouring catchments. The school addition will improve functionality and create the space for more students.”
The District wants to apply for funding for a $6 million neighbourhood learning centre, aimed at providing space for community-based programs and services. While the cost of this project is included in the total budget, funding for it would come from a different program than seismic upgrades.
SD61 superintendent Piet Langstraat will now present the board-approved plans to the Ministry of Education for consideration. If approved by the province, additional planning for the upgrades will take about a year, and construction will take two years.
Vic High students would be moved to S.J. Willis during that time.