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School for Sale — Van de Water Views


Chris Van de Water, May 10, 2017

Everyone knows that the Metchosin Elementary School is located in the very center of the Metchosin village core, but far fewer know that School District 62 proposes to dispose of this quiet set of buildings and property.

I want to encourage everyone to come together and show Metchosin Municipal Council our support to acquire Metchosin School property in its entirety – buildings and playing fields.

Our Mayor and council seem hesitant about purchasing the property. How do they readily put a dollar value on the educational, artistic, cultural, and health alternatives which the former elementary school would offer the residents of our municipality? It is incumbent upon us that we, the people, lobby council and show them that this very school, in the heart of our beloved Metchosin, could, with council’s blessing, become a municipal showpiece for the shared use of its citizens.

The Metchosin Arts & Cultural Centre Association (MACCA) has presented to Council a very workable business plan which would allow the property to serve as a mixed-use arts and cultural centre based on a self-sustaining model at no financial burden to Metchosin. Metchosin's acquisition of this property is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to immeasurably enrich the social fabric of our community. Please let our District Council know that you support this proposal.

What is MACCA? (not MACAW)

Art and Betty had me cornered.

"It's easy", Art explained. "The last V.P. would stand for the position only if he didn't have to do anything."

"But," Betty chimed in, "it would be nice if you attended the monthly board meeting. It's only an hour or so long."

And so, reluctantly, I agreed. And here we are, as the only leaseholder and the recipient of the big announcement that the school will be sold. What do you do with that kind of off-the-record information?

The Metchosin Arts & Cultural Centre (MACC) is, of course in the old elementary school in downtown Metchosin. This is where we gather for our official MACCA meetings. We have a lot to discuss at these meetings; as a matter of fact, the last meeting lasted almost two hours. We're always discussing our lease agreement. MACCA leases one of the buildings on the property. It’s the two story edifice on the right, with the large set of stairs on the front, commonly called the 1914 building.

In a typical convoluted government deal, the School Board leases this building to the municipality, then the municipality leases it to MACCA. The newer building is retained by the School Board for storage, although most of it is vacant.

Every nook and cranny in the 1914 building has been rented out by MACCA to various arts and cultural groups or individuals and there is a long waiting list for spaces.

At present, the MACCA board consists of:

Our last two hour MACCA meeting was mostly about the school being sold, putting our current lease agreement in jeopardy. As a board, MACCA believes that the municipality needs to actively step up to the plate and purchase a controlling interest in this property. That's all it needs to do. A straw poll, informally conducted, shows overwhelming support for municipal action on this issue.

There are schools throughout B.C. that have been closed and sold in recent times. Some of them have been transformed into the very concept that MACCA is proposing and have become the pride of their respective communities.

It is the ‘same old, same old’ in our situation today as faced Canadian Confederation fathers 150 years ago: a few forward-seeing individuals are attempting to guide Metchosin council into making the right decision for citizens now and into the future.

The pre-school

When someone mentions ‘pre-school’ in Metchosin the common vision is of the single-story nondescript building placed a discreet distance to the right of St. Mary's historical church on Metchosin Rd. Moms (very few dads) and their kids have been attending pre-school there for generations. It’s in a very convenient location, the rent from the church is reasonable, and the kids love it. The tots form bonds and friendships there that last lifetimes. The moms, too, meet other moms, finding out that they are neighbours, and many stay in touch long after the tots have moved along.

The downside to this idyllic scene is that the building is long past its useful life. Having no crawlspace, the building is slowly being reclaimed by Mother Earth as it rots into the ground. There is a musty smell in there, the kitchenette is an abomination and numerous rodents have visited the premises. The playground is so close to the noisy road the moms and tots have trouble hearing each other without shouting.

As a publicly owned entity we could offer to move the pre-school to a real building: clean, bright, roomy, with a kitchen any facility could be proud of. These are the types of human investments that help to grow impressionable young children into the Metchosin residents of the future.

Nuts and Bolts

When people flush the toilet or wash their hands they rarely ponder on what happens to the water after it circles the drain. Well, at the Metchosin School that waste water drains into an up to date sewage treatment plant after which it gets pumped into a well maintained pressurised septic field.

This engineered system is super-sized to meet the needs of an entire student body and staff, day after day, year after year, far into the future. As a publicly owned facility we could, at some point, offer to link this system into the Metchosin Community Hall, which is sorely lacking in septic drainage; indeed, the entire Hall property is a parking lot – definitely no space for a decent septic field. A strategy such as this could at some point save that venerable old building from being torn down.