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Quamichan emerges as option B for new Cowichan Secondary

Ideally, the Cowichan Valley School District would like to see Cowichan Secondary moved from its current site across from the Island Savings Centre, to the former Pioneer. - Andrew Leong/file
Ideally, the Cowichan Valley School District would like to see Cowichan Secondary moved from its current site across from the Island Savings Centre, to the former Pioneer.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Yes, a new planning document for the University Village does suggest a new Cowichan Secondary School could be built at the Quamichan school site.

No, that’s not the preferred option.

Re-modelling Cowichan Secondary’s current Quamichan campus as its new high school is simply an option if the Ministry of Education throws the school district a curve ball, school district superintendent Joe Rhodes said Wednesday.

According to Rhodes, the Quamichan campus retrofit was simply talk during University Village consultation.

“We’re just being prepared for a curve ball. It was part of the dialogue in being prepared for all possibilities. That’s not what we’re going for at all,” he said.

University Village is the new name officials have given the Vancouver Island University/James Street/Beverly Street area. Duncan and North Cowichan have been hosting open houses in preparation for a long-term blueprint to guide its redevelopment.

The new Cow High plays an important role in those plans, but Rhodes said the ideal location is still what used to be Pioneer Park, north of the Island Savings Centre and next to the university campus.

The school district announced a deal to buy that site from North Cowichan more than two years ago and is waiting for funding from the ministry to make it happen. The Quamichan option is a fallback if the ministry won’t fund that option.

“If in the process of requesting a new Cow High, if the ministry told us, ‘No we won’t give you $80,000 but we will give you $40,000,’” said Rhodes. “It’s a waiting game.”

Before any serious proposals are made, community consultation will take place, Rhodes said.

North Cowichan manager of planning and sustainability, Brian Green, confirmed an education component would make up the jigsaw puzzle North Cowichan and Duncan are piecing together.

“The area around the VIU and Islands Savings Centre, we’re saying is likely to have some sort of education component, whether that be a high school, building a tech centre, or there might be other potential, as well as expansions of VIU,” Green said.

Cowichan Secondary Parents Advisory Committee chairwoman Sara Warneken Lowe said the Quamichan idea was news to her.

She started a Facebook group called Cowichan Secondary: Replacement School Action and has helped organize meetings to inspire with kids who will benefit from a new school.

Cowichan Secondary School principal Charlie Coleman said he also regarded the Quamichan idea as part of the brainstorming process.

"Ideally, I'd like to stick to the original vision, having it next to VIU," he said. "I like the concept, Cowichan Place, and the idea of it next to the university and Island Savings Centre.

"But really, if we can be guaranteed a suitable size and location, I will take which one happens fastest,"  he said. "We've been waiting too long."

Meanwhile, Cowichan Secondary student council students are planning a rally to get the community's attention and let people know they want a new school soon.

That demonstration should take place sometime before school's out for summer in May said Coleman.

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