The reopening of Sundance elementary school will still happen, but not at the campus until September 2021.
The Greater Victoria School District 61 confirmed this week that it has told the families of 18 students that they can start in a classroom at Willows Elementary in September or delay their child’s start until 2021.
“While we were ready for the September opening of Sundance, with new furniture and resources ready for delivery, COVID demanded that we review our planning for the incoming students,” SD61 associate Colin Roberts said.
Willows has an available classroom for the 2020-21 school year that can accommodate the Sundance students and, should they choose, the families of the Sundance students can continue on at Willows, he said.
Ultimately, it comes down to logistics due to COVID-19 and that École Beausoleil (of Conseil Scolaire Francophone de la Colombie-Britannique) has been there since 2015 and is leased to use the Sundance building until June 2021.
“Relocating the Sundance kindergarten class to Willows increases our ability to provide a safe environment, as it would be more challenging to ensure safety protocols are being followed in a facility shared with another organization,” Roberts said.
Shaun Kellett-Lemon’s son is one of the 18 students who are registered for Sundance in the fall. He said the school was going to start in a portable. He’s not upset about registering at Willows, but his family was excited as they live three blocks away and could walk there.
“My son plays in the field there, he knows the area, there is a sense of familiarity,” Kellett-Lemon said. “Willows is far enough away [about 2.2 km] that we will need to drive or take the city bus. I don’t want to do either, and the prospect of having to take the city bus in the COVID age is not appealing.”
As it stands, there are still questions as to when SD61 will do the estimated $5 million, or more, in seismic upgrades for Bank Street and where École Beausoleil can relocate to.
The SD61 board of trustees voted in June 2019 to reopen a combination of the century-old Bank Street School and the Sundance elementary buildings, which share the same land, for the purposes of a new elementary school. It was a key piece of the puzzle to complete the district’s shuffle of catchment boundaries, a change that was introduced to address population density in the core areas of Victoria and Saanich. The Bank/Sundance reopening is to create space that became unavailable when trustees chose to keep Victor School in Fernwood, a school with a capacity of 151 kids, dedicated to students with special needs.
SD61’s population is currently about 20,000 students. That number has been as high as 30,000 in the 1970s and as low as 17,500 a decade ago.