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New lake elementary, replacement Cow High remain atop SD79 wishlist

Cowichan Secondary graduates leap from the back of a U-Haul truck for their banquet on June 14 at the Island Savings Centre. If the Cowichan Valley School District gets its way, future grad classes will be learning in a brand-new building. - Andrew Leong
Cowichan Secondary graduates leap from the back of a U-Haul truck for their banquet on June 14 at the Island Savings Centre. If the Cowichan Valley School District gets its way, future grad classes will be learning in a brand-new building.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

A new elementary school in Lake Cowichan and the replacement of Cowichan Secondary School remain the top capital priorities for School District 79.

But even in the wake of school closures, the district is keeping a close eye on the potential for overcrowding in certain schools.

The SD79 Long-Range Facilities Plan is due to be presented at tonight's school board meeting.

Despite concerns locally, the Cowichan Valley School District ranks behind only nine other B.C. districts in a provincial government ranking of the condition of facilities.

That said, the district ranks only as "average" and narrowly missed the cutoff to be considered "poor."

The Cowichan long-range facilities plan contains a list of six recommendations. Declining enrollment and funding shortfalls for major repairs remain key issues that need to be addressed. Key to making that happen is the two new schools.

"Due to the age and condition of the existing facilities, continuing to apply for these new schools would improve the condition of these facilities and educational opportunities for students," the report reads.

Also on the need-soon front are major mechanical upgrades to Chemainus Secondary, Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary, and Frances Kelsey Secondary, along with the replacement of the board office and operations department.

The district is eyeballing the recently closed Duncan Elementary School site as a potential site for the new board office. The report recommends a review of all vacant district properties to determine how they can best be used to address future needs.

Meanwhile, four schools — Bench, Drinkwater, Ecole Mount Prevost, and Ecole Cobble Hill — are approaching overcapacity levels. For the first two, that is partly due to a large number of out-of-catchment-area students.

"The potential for overcapacity can be mitigated by the district limiting the number of out-of-attendance-area students at the schools in the future and/or by adding modular classrooms to the school site," the report reads.

The report also suggests monitoring kindergarten registrations and available space at Ecole Mount Prevost and Ecole Cobble Hill.

"French Immersion kindergarten class at each of these schools could potentially lead to an overcapacity situation at these schools over time."

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