Victoria High School needs seismic upgrades, but demolition is off the table for now.
The operations, policy and planning committee of the Greater Victoria School Board voted to recommend two seismic upgrade options for the school, eliminating a third which would have meant tearing down the 104-year-old structure.
The motion will be considered by the Board of Trustees at the end of June, at which point the superintendent will make a presentation to the provincial government, who will make the final decision.
“We did a fairly long consultation with the community, school, parents, teachers … we tried to involve as many people as possible in the decision making,” said SD61 vice-chair Tom Ferris. “Based on that, it seemed obvious one of the things people were definitely looking for was some sort of heritage preservation.”
Ferris said the committee heard from over 1,700 people in its efforts to weigh public opinion on the project. “We have a very heavy binder full of commentary,” he added.
Seismically upgrading the existing building and upgrading the building’s systems—the school’s boiler needs to be replaced—would cost up to $70 million. To retain the exterior of the building and rebuild the interior, similar to work done on Central middle school, would run between $100 million and $110 million.
Both options include a complete seismic upgrade of the school, while the second would include construction of a neighbourhood learning centre for the community, at an increased cost. Ferris said any changes to the school will also signal the beginning of a change for the Fernwood community.
“Obviously, this is a big change and we know that at the same time we’ll be consulting with the public about the building and what it looks like,” he said. “When that happens, the City will also be looking at a long-term, aligned plan with the neighbourhood.”
Whichever option is approved, Vic High students will need to move out while the work is underway. In Sept. 2019 classes would be held at the S.J. Willis Educational Centre, which is currently being upgraded to meet that need.
The Board of Education will make its decision by the end of June, with a decision anticipated from the province by this fall.
– With files from Kristyn Anthony