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Colwood promises land for new Royal Bay school's art centre

Jun 30 2012

A performing-arts centre at one of two new high schools planned for the West Shore has moved a step closer to reality.

Colwood council, already behind the idea of a centre at a new school in the Royal Bay area, has committed land valued at $1.1 million for the facility. The municipal land, slightly larger than a hectare in size, is adjacent to the school property.

"It will be a partnership," said Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton on Friday. "It fits in with the neighbourhood learning centre concept that the province is promoting for projects like this."

Neighbourhood learning centres have been established through a provincial program and have space that is used by schools and the surrounding community. During consultation, the public put forward three favoured themes for the centres at the two new West Shore schools - child and family support, sports and recreation, and arts and culture.

The West Shore Parks and Recreation Society has indicated it would manage the new neighbourhood learning centres, just as it does at other district schools.

Colwood hopes to see a 550-to 600-seat theatre, as well as an aboriginal cultural and heritage site in the arts centre at the Royal Bay school. The theatre could serve as the new home of the Canadian College of Performing Arts.

Meetings will be held over the summer to make fundraising plans and to develop a governance model for the amenity.

The Sooke board of education approved this week an executive summary of community input, compiled from a stakeholders' meeting, an online survey and three open houses. Provincial funding for the schools was approved in October.

"We've done our public consultation, and the community came out and the municipalities came out," said board chairwoman Wendy Hobbs. "It's just really exciting to be at this point."

The overall concept calls for the 50-year-old Belmont Secondary to be closed and the property sold. Two new schools - one at the site of the former Glen Lake Elementary and one on school district-owned land in the Royal Bay area - are to take its place.

The Ministry of Education will look in the fall at what has been done so far, Hobbs said.

"We've heard some good news that it looks very positive for us to get going on this project and have students walk through the doors in 2015."

The district's student population is expected to increase by about 325 students a year over the next 15 years. The two schools will accommodate 2,000 students.

Next up in the process should be steps like selecting educational programs, according to the executive summary. Business accords should also be affirmed with the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society, the Pacific Centre Family Services Association, Camosun College and the Victoria READ Society, it said.

The plan has an estimated $100-million price tag, with the province providing $70 million and the sale of the current Belmont school property expected to bring in $30 million.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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