St. Andrew’s Elementary to close

April 10, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

By Robert Randall

A version of this article originally appeared on Vibrant Victoria.

St. Andrew’s Elementary School, at Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street, will close. Photo © by St. Andrew’s Elementary School.

St. Andrew’s Elementary, a fixture in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood for decades, will shut its doors and amalgamate with St. Joseph’s school on Burnside Road according to a statement by the Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, Richard Gagnon.

The announcement, part of a briefing outlining a new strategic plan for Victoria Catholic schools, comes three years after the closure of another urban Christian school, the Greater Victoria Christian Academy. The GVCA had classrooms in The Church of Our Lord in the Humboldt Valley and Central Baptist Church on Pandora Avenue until 2007. The school faced declining enrollment linked to parental concerns about social problems surrounding the needle exchange on Cormorant Street, a block north of Central Baptist.

St. Andrew’s principal Keefer Pollard denies the move is precipitated by the street community that gravitates toward the 900 block of Pandora and Harris Green, saying the school’s mandate is to respond to the needy. St. Andrews participates in the Pandora Green Good Neighbour Association and is an active participant in improving conditions in Harris Green and North Park.

Pollard cites declining enrollment as one factor in the decision to close the school, saying both St. Andrew’s and St. Patrick’s (located in Victoria’s Jubilee neighbourhood) have too many empty seats and are unable to balance their budgets. Saanich’s St. Joseph’s, on the other hand, is at capacity with 200 seats. A planned expansion in five years will double the current number of students at St. Joseph’s.

St. Andrew’s, rated highly in the C.D. Howe Institute’s rankings of local schools is located at 1002 Pandora Avenue, in a 1931 heritage building. The building is not seismically upgraded to current standards, a point of great concern to Pollard and one he feels will be rectified by a move to a new state-of-the-art facility.

Left unanswered is the question of what happens to the school building when it is vacated in five years. Owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese, the property encompasses the main school building, an annex containing a gymnasium, a playground and playing fields. The Diocese will begin a series of consultations with parents, teachers, the Catholic community and other stakeholders over the next several years before coming to a decision on the fate of the property.

The school made headlines in 2008 when it spearheaded a protest against the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s bid to relocate the Cormorant Street needle exchange to the former St. John’s Ambulance building at 941 Pandora, a short distance from school grounds. The neighourhood, already reeling from an increase in social disorder exacerbated by a high concentration of social services in the area, was chosen as the new location for the exchange in a surprise move that caught parents, residents and business owners off guard. Many felt the addition of a needle exchange so soon after the Cormorant Street debacle would be the tipping point that would lead to an irrevocable change for the worse.

Copyright © 2010 by

Entry filed under: architecture, Harris Green, media, needle exhange, Our Place, social issues, Victoria's economy.

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