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“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The scandal was unearthed by information secured through the Freedom of Information Act. The City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria School District (GVSD 61) appear to have worked hand in hand to purposefully orchestrate a major, undisclosed modification to the revitalization of Vic High’s Memorial Stadium.
Friends of Vic High GoFundMe page>>
The result of the modification will render the 400m track from eight lanes down to two; an albeit small, but nugatory white elephant. Also, the field will be inadequate for rugby; a historically popular sport in Victoria and throughout the provincial school system.
There are development plans that now encroach on land critical for building the track and the multi-purpose sports field.
A two-lane track will be prone to crowding, will greatly hamper any team training, and will mean that no track meets will be hosted by Victoria High School. This perpetuates the reality that has disadvantaged the school for nearly five decades.
“A two-lane track will be useless,” said Kenyan coach and journalist Justin Lagat. “There can be no events competed in shorter than 800m, and will be impossible to host a meet or even workouts with more than a handful of athletes. It sounds like they are chasing the dollar at the expense of the physical health of the kids. This must stop.”
Currently, there is a 400-yard cinder track that was built during 1949 as a memorial to students who fought in WW11.
The field on the inside is currently too unkept to host soccer and rugby. This is an embarrassment for a city that spends much time flexing by citing publications like Condé Nast Traveler when they rank the former British outpost as one of the most livable cities in the world. Great for the tourists who bring in billions of dollars. Not so much for the student population who are apparently deemed as an expense.
Who are the Friends of Victoria High School?
The Friends of Vic High (FOVH), made up of alumni and local community advocates including Stephen Dorsey (VH 84), Esther Callo, and Tak Niketas (VH 83), have spearheaded the investigation and are demanding a public inquiry regarding the Memorial Stadium Revitalization Project (MSRP) and most importantly, that the original plans be honoured.
“When we examine the actions of the GVSD, the City and even the Vic High Alumni Association, it appears the Friends of Vic High are the only ones really looking out for the best interest of the students – working to ensure they are treated with fairness and equality,” said Dorsey. “Like students at other schools in the district, Vic High students should be provided with the resources and support they need and deserve so that they too can begin their life journey from an even starting line. We all know that this second-class treatment has been going on for decades, it’s time to put a stop this systemic inequality.”
The renovation of the current 400-yard cinder track and natural grass field was planned to coincide with the seismic upgrade to the school. However, based on vague budget disclosures by the City and the GVSD, it appears that there isn’t enough budget available to fully complete the project.
Under the guise of the budget shortfall and environmental concerns, it appears that the GVSD quickly approved the lease of the land in question in exchange for monies noting that the supplementary funds would be leveraged towards major renovations to the main school itself and stadium revitalization. What they failed to disclose publicly was the added setback space required for the development which would make delivering to the original MSRP, promoted to the public by the Vic High Alumni Association since 2012, impossible to achieve.
“Yet, at no time was the public made aware of this backroom deal for an 8m “easement” (that would allow the CRHC to encroach on Vic High’s land to satisfy rezoning requirements for a setback that doubles as a fire lane and a pedestrian walkway—free of charge for 60 years). The public had a basic right to know of this proposed land use and the impact of it i.e. the cancellation of the metric track,” says Callo.
In fact, to this day, the Vic High Alumni association continues to promote the original MSRP on its website and since 2012 has privately raised nearly $600,000 for the project, inclusive of a $250,000 matching grant by the City of Victoria — the same municipal government that now appears to be undermining the promise to students, donors and community supporters.
The capital city’s only high school
Victoria High School is the only high school located in the city of Victoria proper. With a metro population of approximately 385,000, the area, made up of 13 municipalities, is home to many new or newly renovated high schools.
For example, within the school district is Oak Bay High School, located just 2.3K to the east of Vic High. Oak Bay High underwent a 55-million-dollar re-build that was completed in 2015. It is a stunning, state-of-the-art facility with a soccer pitch, rugby field, and standard eight-lane metric track.
Friends of Vic High GoFundMe page>>
The GVSD, the Ministry of Education, and Farmer Construction Ltd are listed as public and private partners of the Oak Bay High School project. Additionally, the province was a partner with “Partnerships BC” which is governed by a Board of Directors reporting to its sole shareholder, the Minister of Finance. It is incorporated under the British Columbia Business Corporations Act.
Vic High was first built in 1867, the latest edition of the school was completed in 1914. It is the oldest school west of Winnipeg located some 2,402 kilometres to the east and north of San Francisco over 1500K due south. Vic High is the only high school in the capital city of the province of British Columbia, a sport, tourism, and tech mecca.
Greater Victoria: Canada’s sporting mecca
Greater Victoria is considered Canada’s endurance home, with 13 national teams or national sports that call the area home including the Athletics Canada West Hub, Triathlon Canada, Rowing Canada, Cycling Canada, and Rugby 7s, among others.
Students from local high schools, if provided the opportunity and the resources and foundation to achieve, can be well-positioned to access local world-class centres of excellence that are located in their backyard.
Instead, it appears that the school district and the city are forsaking the future of Vic High student’s and perpetuating the systemic disadvantage that they and the school have endured for decades — decisions that negatively impact the Vic High community through the unfair withholding of critical resources and support that students need to get an equal start in life.
Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” That’s why the FOVH believes that fighting for students today is so important.
Superintendent Shelley Green: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Lisa Helps: 250-661-2708
Twitter: @CityofVictoria @sd61schools