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For sale: one North Saanich elementary school, well-used

Aug 01 2012

The Saanich school district is looking to sell its vacant McTavish elementary school and property for at least $1.3 million.

The district has posted a request for proposals on the B.C. Bid website in hopes of getting offers on the 1.7-hectare site near the Victoria International Airport.

The school, which covers 18,000 square feet, opened in 1951 and underwent a number of expansions and upgrades over the years. It was closed in 2008 due to declining enrolment.

The district tried unsuccessfully to lease the property before deciding last year to investigate selling it as surplus.

Enrolment projections show there is no need for McTavish elementary to provide school programs in the future, the district says.

"It's excess to needs and it is a property that we are permitted to sell because of that," said board chairman Wayne Hunter on Tuesday.

"Even for us to put money into it, we'd need to have a really good reason to do that - especially the way our budget situation is."

Hunter said the previous board began looking at how to dispose of the school, and the current board agreed that the best option was to put the property up for sale.

The site is currently zoned for use by a public institution, and about half the property is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

"If someone wanted to purchase it for an institutional use, it would make it a lot easier to use than if someone wanted to redevelop it," Hunter said.

The district notes that changing the zoning would require permission from the District of North Saanich, while expanding the developed portion of the site onto ALR land would require additional approvals.

The Royal B.C. Museum had considered locating a storage facility on the site, but Hunter said the museum took a second look and is no longer interested. "So it's open for any type of offer," he said.

The deadline is Aug. 23. Without a buyer or someone to lease the building, the district could face costs associated with demolishing the school.

"That's what we would have to do, because to insure it and to maintain it so that it won't deteriorate completely is just not within our budget," Hunter said.

The district has struggled to balance its books in the face of falling enrolment and reduced per-pupil grants from the provincial government.

The proceeds of any school sale could be spent on other capital projects.

"It would help us restore schools and make improvements in schools and make sure our schools are up to date," Hunter said.

"But, of course, it doesn't help us at all with operating [budget] and operating is the area that we're working hard to try to maintain."

lkines@timescolonist.com

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