We line up at the gate of the construction site like we’re at Swartz Bay and the ferry is late. A pleasant smiling lady in a hard hat and safety vest approaches and I roll my window down.
“Hi there,” she says.
“Hello,” I reply. “I’m Mike from the Gazette.”
“Oh, hi! I’m Windy Beadall, the principal of Royal Bay,” she says excitedly, extending a hand. I reach across and take it. “We’re just waiting for a few more minutes and we’ll all head in together.” She smiles.
It’s my first official tour of the soon-to-be-completed – though you wouldn’t necessarily guess that to look at it – Royal Bay secondary, due to open this fall.
Once the line-up of cars begins to move, we all find parking spots in what may or may not end up being a parking lot – I was never really clear on where those aspects of the project would be located, but it was next to one of the sports fields on the north side of the building.
We file out of our cars – those few of us who didn’t bring our own are given our own hard hats and safety vests – and gather in front of the door. I count municipal politicians from at least three councils in the region, five or more Sooke School District trustees, a couple of SD62 administrators, a few members of the media, one leader of the provincial New Democratic Party – otherwise known as Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan – and one City of Colwood communications person. Maybe 25 of us funnel in behind Beadall as she starts the tour, asking us to please stay together.
The smell of sawdust and paint hang thick in the air, but it doesn’t take away from the immenseness and grandiosity that will be the finished product.
Beadall takes the group up the central staircase and out onto the roof where basketball courts are being poured, then back inside to see both gymnasiums, the culinary arts kitchen, the administrative spaces and everything else that will make Royal Bay what it will become.
Like the performing arts wing.
Two large rooms with garage doors that will open out to the sports fields will soon be home to the school’s choral and music programs. “Hopefully we can open those doors and be serenaded out in the fields,” Beadall says, smiling, before she leads us into the theatre, which will rival most I’ve ever seen.
With extensive seating, an actual orchestra pit in front of the stage and a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system being installed, it’s fair to say that Royal Bay is likely to become one of the go-to locales for live performance on the West Shore in the near future.
Another highlight of the tour is the explanation of the colour-coding aspect of the building, which sees each area – academic, trades, arts and athletics – painted a different colour, mirroring the colours of an Emily Carr piece that was donated to the school.
“We had to change the blue a bit and make it bit more purple-y,” Beadall says, laughing, “to match our team colours.”
Sandra Russell, communications manager for the City of Colwood, later pointed out that Royal Bay is not merely a school, but a community-centric facility.
“Apart from the amazing architecture that takes full advantage of the breathtaking waterfront location, the school is uniquely designed to promote interaction with the community,” she said.
“Most schools are rarely visited by anyone other than staff, students and occasionally their families, and sit unused outside of school hours. At Royal Bay, the Neighbourhood Learning Centre will invite people of all ages into the school for West Shore Parks and Recreation programs and a daycare space. The track and sports fields will have an outdoor club house for community sports, the theatre will host performances and presentations, the large gym is glass-walled to invite people into sporting events, and the trades and commercial cooking programs will connect students with community apprenticeships.”
And best of all – from some people’s point of view, anyway – the facility is still on time and under budget, according to SD62 superintendent Jim Cambridge.
Watch the Gazette for the date of the official open house, where the public will be invited to see the finished product.