Sooke School District sees near-record bump in student population

The Sooke School District had the second-highest student growth rate this year.

There are about 600 new students this school year, the second largest increase in the region. Last year still holds the record of 827 freshmen.

“There are a lot of families moving to this part of the world from other parts of the world – a lot of students studying English. Belmont Secondary is full for the first time in its (new) history. We are actually rejecting students from Belmont outside the gate and hand them over to Royal Bay Secondary School,” said SD62 School Board Chairman Ravi Parmar.

Belmont currently accommodates 1,550 students and currently has portable equipment on site.

It’s not unique, throughout the district, schools are packed with students. The newly opened Center Mountain Lellum Middle School is just full, with about 550 students out of a potential 700, according to Parmar. But the school “has about six new enrollments a week”.

Royal Bay Secondary School is overloaded. The district’s largest secondary school has a seating capacity of 1,400 and approximately 1,500 students currently attend classes there.

“We’re going to add portables, and I expect that two to three years from now, we’ll be back to about 10 portables, like when we first opened it up. So you need a secondary school, you need a primary school, There may also be a need for a secondary school in the future.”

Capital plans for the region this year include new schools near North Langford and Colwood Royal Bay. While funding is not yet available, the plan suggests they will be completed by the 2024-25 school year.

The plan also includes seismic upgrades for Port Renfrew Primary School, which Parmar believes is “the least earthquake-safe school in the province”.

The upgrade will see the existing school built as a Kindergarten to Year 12 campus in Port Renfrew and is a partnership between SD62 and Pacheedaht Nation.

“I think we certainly articulated our case not only to own the school but also to be good stewards of public money. We have great admiration for our executive team, the director and the team he led. We were able to deliver the program despite the challenges — sometimes it might not be delivered on time — but within budget, which is very important.”

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SD62 West Bank

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