New Langford elementary school, ‘imagined as a tree house,’ gets gifted name

New Langford elementary school, 'imagined as a tree house,' gets gifted name
A new elementary school under construction on Latoria Road in Langford has officially been named. The 45,000-square-foot school, set to open in fall 2025, will have 480 seats for students in kindergarten through grade five, according to the Sooke School District.

Langford’s newest school is nameless no more.

The Sooke School District (SD62) Board of Education announced Monday the name for its new elementary school in Langford’s Latoria neighbourhood — SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ, which was gifted by the Scia’new First Nation.

The school, located on Latoria Road, is set to open in fall 2025 with 480 seats for students in kindergarten through grade five.

SĆIȺNEW̱ SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ (pronounced schee-ay-nuh ska-leetk-luth) means “salmon children” in the SENĆOŦEN language, according to SD62, and Chief of Scia’new First Nation Russ Chipps says the Nation is “extremely proud” to gift the name.

“SĆIȺNEW̱ represents the richness of the sea life in our region that sustains our land and people,” said Chipps in a news release.

“SṮEȽIṮḴEȽ is one of the most important words in SENĆOŦEN language because it means children and, in our culture, they are our most precious resource.”

‘Healing and hope’

But it isn’t just a name — it’s “a commitment from the Sooke School District that the painful and ugly history of educational institutions will not be forgotten and that schools can and will be places of healing and hope,” said SD62 in the release.

The 45,000-square-foot, four-storey building, with 16 classrooms and four kindergarten spaces, “is imagined as a tree house embedded into the rugged terrain on one side and perched on the other side, with sweeping views of the surrounding landscape,” says architect ThinkSpace.

In June 2022 the B.C. government said it had approved $39.6 million to build the new school in south Langford, while the school district had committed an additional $1 million.

Chipps says Lavina Charles, a respected elder, led the search for a name. While learning how to pronounce it may be challenging, he says it’s a perfect metaphor for the learning done in schools — hard at first and easier with practice and guidance.

“When I went to school, I was taught that my own language was a sin, that it was wrong and I was punished when I spoke my language,” recalled Charles.

“Together we are learning the language of this land that was forgotten by force and I hope a school name in our language makes it better for not only our children but all children.”

SD62 held a naming consultation period earlier this year, and it says a gifted name from a Nation in the district was one of the top suggestions heard from the public.

READ FEB. 2023 STORY: Hogwarts out, Horgan in: Shortlist of potential names for new Langford school revealed

“Our Board of Education is committed to walking the path of reconciliation and one of the meaningful ways we can reflect and preserve local Indigenous culture and language is through visibility,” added Amanda Dowhy, interim board chair with SD62.

“Our students and families who make up the traditional territories of our District should see and feel their culture throughout our communities and it is equally important for those of us who are visitors on these territories to take the time to learn more about the rich culture that has existed here for generations.”

Looking ahead

The school district, which serves Langford, Sooke, Port Renfrew, Metchosin, Highlands and Colwood, anticipates growing by more than 300 students per year for the next 15 years. SD62 says it currently has about 12,000 students.

A full list of ongoing capital projects, including new school construction, expansions and seismic replacement projects, is online here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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