Site preparation is underway at the Oak Bay High project, as seen from the roof of the East Building. The new gym will be constructed first, with the projected finish date of fall 2014, at which time the old gym will be torn down.

Site preparation is underway at the Oak Bay High project, as seen from the roof of the East Building. The new gym will be constructed first, with the projected finish date of fall 2014, at which time the old gym will be torn down.

Oak Bay students will live through construction

New high school project will affect two years of classes

School bells will be ringing soon at Oak Bay High. And with construction underway as classes kick off Sept. 3, school officials are gearing up to help students and community members navigate the altered premises.

“We’ve already been in discussions with students as of last spring,” said principal Dave Thomson. “Students need to be engaged with the process so they can take some ownership in our new building.”

As part of that effort, Thomson has created a student advisory group made up of two students from each grade to address any issues – from noise and distraction complaints to anything that comes up along the way.

“We don’t believe this will cause us any long-term stress. That doesn’t mean everyone is enamoured with this happening, but from a community perspective this is the right thing to do,” he said.

While most students are excited about the new building, Thomson said, there are those who have expressed sadness and nostalgia for the building that is destined to be torn down.

Also, approval delays in the project – it’s now due to be completed and fully occupied by June 2015 – meant some students who anticipated leaving Oak Bay High from the new school graduated from the old building.

With detailed contracts in place for builder Farmer Construction Ltd. that prohibit workers to interact or even look at students, Thomson expects the two-year construction period to go smoothly in relation to the school’s operation.

“Perhaps we’d have more concerns if this was an elementary school, but our kids aren’t like that,” he said. “I think the biggest concern we will have is the visual intrigue this may cause.”

Thomson’s office looks onto the construction site and he said noise has not been a factor so far. However, he admits to being captivated by the process. Luckily for students this year, the project will present many hands-on learning opportunities in engineering, physics and other programs. While the construction site will remain off-limits to all – which means students accustomed to cutting through the field off Cranmore must take the long way around – special invitation days will give students and faculty a chance to see the work up close.

“We knew a long time ago that we wouldn’t be able to do this without interrupting some element of our school year,” Thomson said. “But, like any major project, there are challenges and we just have to do our best to predict them and find a way through.”

news@mondaymag.com

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