For forty-seven years the pitter-patter of tiny feet could be heard in the playground and hallways. For forty-seven years parents dropped off their wee ones, watching with love as their little person disappeared into the crowd eventually to find their way into school for the day. Some would stand at the fence on tippy-toe, trying to catch that one last glimpse.
This is the story of Glen Lake Elementary School, in Langford, BC, Canada on Vancouver Island. Langford is one of the fastest growing communities in BC, and perhaps even Canada to some degree. Along with this fast-paced development and all the excitement that comes from that we also find stories of change and loss. These may very well be some of the last photographs of this old school before it disappears forever.
Never take anyone or anything for granted, you can never be certain of when or if you will ever see them again. For many in our community, rapid changes to our surroundings and landscapes result in rather uneasy feelings. A sense of losing touch with our past.
The world continues to grow, both in terms of population and the resulting densities in our communities and cities. This is not necessarily a bad thing, along with change comes opportunity and a burgeoning sense of excitement. But change is also the harbinger of loss.
2008 was the last year Glen Lake Elementary was in active use. Structural issues, specifically seismic upgrades that were required, would have been terribly expensive to facilitate. A study showed that refurbishing the building would be considerably more expensive than just tearing it down and replacing it with a new structure. Enrollment numbers were also cited as a reason, as the number of children attending the school did not come near to the capacity it supported.
Glen Lake Elementary may not be designed using Victorian or Gothic architectural styles, but it is still an important cornerstone in the community. It still reflects the character of the area at the time is was built, and thus is no less interesting than our heritage buildings.
It’s near impossible to silence the energy that all the children who came here over the years have left behind in the hallways and walls. Many of these children have since grown, and in turn become community leaders and members of society that contribute greatly. It’s their stories that are left behind. It’s their stories you can almost hear on the wind as you walk around the facility trying to imagine what it must have been like when it was full of little people scurrying about their days.
The main issue of contention in this area is not so much the growth or loss of heritage buildings. There aren’t terribly many here as this specific area is much newer than the city of Victoria proper. But even with that being said, there is something comforting to people in seeing structures and artifacts of an area that act as an anchor to a time past. It’s the sudden change, the almost near removal of all things familiar, that causes a feeling of trepidation in many.
Haunting scenes pepper our landscape. Scenes that were once filled with activity and a gale of sounds now find themselves in complete silence with the periodic outburst of birds and the wind in the trees.
These rooms were once filled with laughter and light. Today they are boarded up tight, the entire facility is secured and undoubtedly very dark inside. Slowly, natural decay is setting in. Some of the pieces of fascia are weathered or missing. The tarmac is starting to pitch and bow from neglect and settling. In some ways it almost takes on a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel to it with the lack of life.
The last goal has been scored in the field. What once were shiny, white goal posts now are beginning to rust and wear.
Soon all this will be gone. The current plans are to tear it all down and replace it with a new, modern and massive high school. This is a much-needed facility for the area and will result in further growth. The current high school, Belmont High, is rife with its own problems. It truly needs to be replaced. Not to mention, the land it sits on is very valuable and I am sure that there are a legion of developers out there with plans to build more high-density housing.
And yet I find myself hit with a sense of melancholy as I take this scene in. No more will we hear the sound of the school bell ringing, followed closely by these doors being flung wide open to find a sea of young, beaming faces all running out to daylight at the end of their day. The gentle weathering we see on the cement staircase here is a direct result of this deluge as the tiny feet scurried over the steps. And just as the waves of the ocean gently wear the rocks on the shore, these stairs too have their own stories to share.
It’s only a matter of time now before these stories are silenced forever, like the flame of a candle that has burnt itself out. At first, the flame begins to flicker… and then it extinguishes itself forever.
Even though big, new things are coming I also find myself hoping that we don’t forget what came before. I really hope that we can remember Glen Lake Elementary School for what is was, what it stood for and what it accomplished.
We really appreciate your visit here today, thank you for taking the time to pop by. As always, we encourage everyone to leave us any comments that you may have as we love to hear from all our visitors.