History may be elementary

Closed school could be home to Royal B.C. Museum artifacts

The site of the former McTavish elementary school could be used to help to preserve history. The site is being considered for use as an offsite storage facility by the Royal BC Museum.

The proposal went to a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 24, where people learned the museum wants to construct a purpose-built, cool and cold storage facility for archival (film and negative) collections and other environmentally-sensitive items. The new facility would measure 45,000 to 50,000 square feet and be built on the non-Agricultural Land Reserve portion of the property, near the road. This would be a similar footprint to the existing school.

Joan Axford, secretary-treasurer for School District 63, said there was a good turnout of local residents to the meeting. “They wanted to hear the plans, but their concerns were not so much about the musuem itself, but that whatever is built there fits into the area. The ALR land is important, and they wanted to know if there was a way the community could have access to that land. I think, with this project, they can.”

If approved, the proposed new building could be up to three stories, which is about half a storey higher than the current school. It would possibly need a parking variance to be granted by the District of North Saanich. The plans include 10 parking stalls, plus loading stalls. The public would be allowed to use the facility, but it is anticipated that public traffic would be limited.

School District 63 representatives say there are several advantages to the sale of the property. The ALR land would be maintained, and sale to the Royal BC Museum would ensure the property remains in public hands.

Proceeds from the land sale would remain in the local capital accounts of the school district for educational equipment, and the Royal BC Museum would pay taxes to the District of North Saanich.

The school district has been attempting unsuccessfully to lease the property since the school closed in 2008. McTavish, Sansbury and Greenglade elementary schools were all closed because of declining enrolment, and later Sansbury and McTavish students were combined into the KELSET elementary school, near Panorama Recreation Centre. The district believes that, based on enrolment projections, there will be no need for a new school on the McTavish elementary school site.

“The building, as it is, is a liability for the district. Some parts of the school are very old, and the cost of upkeep is quite high,” Axford said. “I think the museum is very keen about this project, and they want to be good neighbours.”

Surveys were made available to the public at the Oct. 24 meeting, and there is more opportunity for the public to have their say through the district website (www.sd63.bc.ca). With that public input, the application will be sent to the Minister of Education for approval to proceed with the sale of the property. Axford said the board of education hopes to forward the proposal through Shared Services BC in November.


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