Sunday, February 25, 2024

Cedar Hill Middle School replacement to be the ‘greenest’ in Greater Victoria


Cedar Hill Middle School is set to be replaced by a low-carbon, seismically safe building.

With seismic activity a growing concern to parents on the Juan De Fuca tectonic plate, the existing school had an H-1 seismical rating which means it has the highest vulnerability rating and needs to be replaced. 

The nearly 100-year-old current school was in need of a glow-up, so the Greater Victoria School District has approved a $46.5 million new building that will include a “green” design to make its carbon footprint the lowest in Greater Victoria.

The new school will reduce the carbon emissions of the current building by 90%.

The new school will occupy the same land as the current school by being built on the fields that are behind and adjacent to the existing building. 

The new “purposefully built” school will also aim to collaborate and connect students with Indigenous education and the traditional lands of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. 

“The seismic replacement of Cedar Hill Middle School supports modern-day learning in a safe space for all students and staff,” said Board Chair Nicole Duncan. 

“Through student, staff, and community engagement, we have heard the importance of creating an inclusive and accessible school that is welcoming for all learners. We recognize that learning practices and requirements continue to evolve, and we must build a school that will inspire and provide amenities that support future generations.” 

“Looking to the immediate future need to demonstrate our commitment to address climate change, we must also consider environmental factors. The new build will set a new standard for sustainability in the School District.”

The new building will be two-storeys and it will include 21 classrooms, all with natural light elements and sinks for proper health and hygiene amongst the students. The classrooms are organized so they are clustered around open spaces to provide students with a collaborative space to work together. 

“Students have been at the centre of the decisions in this design process,” said Superintendent Deb Whitten. 

“The building has been designed embedding the core competencies for middle school in order to deliver unique programs that engage students in their learning. We want to create enriching learning opportunities and provide a space that fosters creativity, connectivity, and collaboration.”

According to the school district, there will be designated spaces to help students explore their creativity in art, drama, music, cooking, creating and technologies.

Students will have counselling accessible through an “inclusive education hub” located at the new building’s core on the ground level with counselling offices adjacent, along with a sensory room and a braille room for students with sensory impairment. 

The new gymnasium will also include an all-gender bathroom, the library will include an Indigenous welcome space and the exterior of the property will have two sports fields, a basketball court and outdoor learning spaces where students will gather. 

“It’s a top priority for our government to provide students with safe, modern classrooms,” said Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care. 

“It’s great to see that the Greater Victoria School District has approved a thoughtful and innovative design for the replacement Cedar Hill Middle School. This is an important step forward in the process and I look forward to construction starting in summer 2023.”

The Province is footing the bill for $42.9 million of the replacement school and the Greater Victoria School District is chipping in $3.6 million.

Construction is set to start this coming summer and the school is expected to be finished by fall of 2025. 

The school district says that until it is finished, the students will continue their learning in the existing building. 

Curtis Blandy

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