WATCH: It’s been sitting empty for nearly a decade and the old Crofton Elementary school building has become a magnet for vandalism, drug use, and fire. April Lawrence reports.
It used to be filled with children’s laughter and learning now the former Crofton Elementary School is filled with weeds, boarded up windows, and graffiti.
The school has been empty for nine years but was only officially closed in 2017.
A few weeks ago a group of concerned residents went to the derelict property armed with paint brushes and lawn mowers to try to decrease the fire risk and improve safety but they say it shouldn’t be up to them.
“We painted two coats on the graffiti, we picked up all the glass, we swept,” said organizer Shannon Carlow. “We as a community can’t live with this risk anymore, we just can’t,” she said.
On Tuesday Shannon Carlow led a group of upset community members right to the front doors of the Cowichan Valley School District in Duncan. Fed up they organized a meeting with school officials to voice their concerns — their biggest is fire.
“The fires are set on a regular basis, there was a fire set again yesterday under the stairs, ten days ago there was a fire set in the hole,” Carlow said.
The residents say during their clean up they had to remove offensive graffiti, including swastikas, as well as drug paraphernalia from the site.
“We have asked today for proper security of the property,” said Carlow.
And during Tuesday’s meeting the school district agreed — to more security, more fencing, and removal of all the overgrown weeds and brush.
“Our maintenance people have been very busy in other areas so this is just reminding us we need to take care of that building as well,” said School District 79 Board Chair Candace Spilsbury.
The ultimate goal is to have the building torn down.
“We know it needs attention and we agree with the community we want to see it demolished,” said Spilsbury.
The school district has applied to the province cover the roughly $600,000 cost. The Ministry of Education says it’s working on the claim but that it’s complicated — the entire property is owned by multiple parties, including the province, the school district, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District.