WATCH: Student enrolment has been skyrocketing all over the island. The Greater Victoria School District is now in its third-consecutive year of increasing enrolment. But with regional construction growth so strong, the districts are facing a labour shortage, and are now getting creative to make sure kids have a classroom come September. Kori Sidaway has more.
The final touches for the upcoming school year are being made at Victoria’s Central Middle School. Welcome signs are going up, but outside, construction continues.
Clayton Howlett teaches Grade 8 at Victoria’s Central Middle School and says his classroom likely won’t be done until mid-September.
“In the meantime, there was a space that was a formally a staff room that is big enough for a staff room and I’m starting the school year in there, and I’ll be there for the first month, month-and-a-half,” said Howlett.
For Greater Victoria, situations like these have become the new normal.
For three years in a row, student enrollment is up. A regional building boom has resulted in a shortage of skilled workers.
“If we were to wait for contractors to come on-site and do this for us, we’d be waiting a long time,” said Vice Chair of the Greater Victoria School District Tom Ferris.
It has forced the Greater Victoria School Board to take things into their own hands. New learning studios are being built from the ground up by internal staff instead.
“Really, if we didn’t have them we wouldn’t be able to be meeting the deadlines that we are meeting,” said Ferris.
The Greater Victoria School District is growing and shows no sign of stopping. Around 200 students were added just this year, and another 1,800 students are expected over the next decade.
It has many wondering if the board should be building less for right now, and more for the future.”
“It’s a short-term solution,” said grade 6/7 teacher Jessica Bambrough.
“It’s great that we have rooms right now, but definitely, something for the future is to get land and get schools built. We’re not decreasing in population we’re only increasing, so there needs to be more forethought of long term.”
It’s something the school board is all-too-aware of.
“We knew well in advance where we would be this year, so there has been a lot of planning. And in fact, we’re looking further than this year, we’re looking two,three,four years out,” said Ferris.
The district says this year, every student will have a place to sit and learn.
But as Greater Victoria’s population expands, and more and more students enrol in schools, the difficulty of finding classrooms, and space will likely follow.