The Cowichan Valley will finally get its long-anticipated new secondary school.
B.C.’s Education Minister Rob Fleming visited Cowichan Secondary School on Dec. 18 to announce that a new seismically safe $82.2 million facility to replace the 69-year old CSS will be open for classes by September, 2023.
The new school, which will have the capacity for 1,100 students that will eliminate the need for portables, will be constructed on the Cowichan Place property next to Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan campus.
The facility, which will also include a new sports field and a neighbourhood learning centre, is the first major school construction project in the Valley since 2010.
CCS students will remain in the current school until the new one is complete.
The existing facility will be retained by the school district and used as temporary space for students during future seismic upgrade projects in the district.
Fleming said the province will fund approximately $80 million towards the project from its seismic mitigation program, while the Cowichan Valley school district will kick in $2.2 million.
Fleming said the current CSS, which was built seven years before the first satellite circled the Earth, had been a centrepiece of Duncan for decades, but is now ancient and unsafe for students and staff.
“Every student deserves to learn in a quality school that will protect them in an earthquake,” he said to a packed and delighted auditorium full of students, teachers and other dignitaries.
“Cowichan Valley families have had to live with the fact that their school was deemed unsafe 15 years ago. That’s why our government has acted quickly to provide Cowichan Valley students with a new facility that fits 21st-Century learning in a seismically safe environment.”
Candace Spilsbury, chairwoman of the local school board, pointed out that the construction of a new school to replace CSS has been the main capital priority of the school district for many years.
“The board of education is thrilled that the Cowichan Valley is getting a new secondary school,” she said.
“We have been working toward this day for a long time with our community partners, and so we are so excited for what this announcement means to our learners, our staff and our community. We envision this new school as an anchor within our community, and we are grateful to the Ministry of Education for helping us make this vision a reality.”
Eilis Young, a Grade 8 student at Quamichan Middle School who will graduate in 2024 from the new school, said she’s overjoyed that she and her classmates will be the part of the first graduating class from the facility.
“I hope all the kids of my generation will appreciate the thought that has gone into the design of the school, which includes new learning spaces for us,” she said.