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The Greater Victoria School District #61, allegedly appropriated $2M from the Victoria High School seismic upgrade budget. They then applied it to S.J. Burnside Educational Centre’s renovation. According to documents released Dec. 7, SD61, then reported a budget shortfall for Vic High — none of which was done with public consultation.
Claiming that $2M shortfall, SD61 then apparently worked hand in hand with the City of Victoria and the Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC) to lease some Vic High land to a developer. An 8-metre easement was included, apparently at no charge. Mayor Ms. Lisa Helps chairs the CRHC.
The 8-metre easement encroaches into an area that houses Vic High’s Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1949 after WW2, to honour students who served in the war. Alongside the Vic High seismic upgrade project, the Memorial Stadium was to be renovated converting the 44 yard sand track to an 8-lane, 400m rubber track. Additionally, a fieldhouse, lighting, and new stadium seating was in the plans. The soccer and rugby pitch was to be resurfaced with artificial turf. Fundraising was carried out based on the renovation as described. The City also offered $250,000 to support the project.
With the 8m encroachment, SD61 redesigned the plan with a 2-lane walking track and beach volleyball court. No stadium, no lights, no fieldhouse. Rugby, soccer, and track and field are provincial high school sports. Beach volleyball and walking are not.
“These are the kinds of purposeful moves that erode trust in our public
institutions and officials”, noted Esther Callo, co-founder of FOVH in a statement released Dec. 13. “It is wholly unacceptable that three levels of government would work together to undermine efforts to build long-promised athletic facilities for Vic High students.”
“SD61 has publicly maintained that the reason for having to scale back the
MSRP was due to the shortfall in the original Vic High budget. The reality is that
the shortfall appears to be of their own making,” commented Stephen Dorsey,
co-founder of the Friends of Vic High (FOVH).
Over 30 high-level athletes, coaches and officials have lent their names opposing the new design of the 2-lane walking track in an Open Letter, which was first published in the Times Colonist newspaper and now is available at Athletics Illustrated.
“The FOVH has been singularly focussed on ensuring that the promise made to
Vic High students for the envisioned MSRP is kept. We will leave it those
responsible for oversight of SD61 to hold the parties accountable for the self-
inflicted financial mess and potential breaches in public trust,” added Dorsey.