Can Yount School at Youbou find a new future under community ownership?
That’s a question being posed by the Youbou Community Association as members eye the now-closed school.
According to YCA member Larry Leischner it will all start with a public meeting in Youbou on Tuesday, Nov. 17 to talk about what has been done at Cowichan Station with an old school.
“We’re looking at the Yount building. It’s a very early stage, though. The school is no more, which is a shame. It will probably never be a school again, I imagine,” he said.
Residents of Youbou have been making an effort to form into a solid community, he said.
“We’ve tried to do a few things. The new coffee shop, Cassy’s, is open in town now, which has been a godsend for the people. And of course the Youbou Church Society has done a wonderful job of managing to keep the church going as a non-denominational entity and a centrepoint for the town. They’ve done a lot of renovations and great work.
“The school? We’ve certainly looked at the Hub’s business plan. My wife has done a lot of work in that regard. We really like what we’ve seen there. The difference, of course, is that there is a much different population base in the Duncan area than there is out here. But having said that we’ve got a seismically updated school, which is in really good shape. So, we are wondering what the appetite would be for us to look at whatever options might be available for using all or part of the school in some way.
“We’ve had all sorts of ideas floated. Many of them are very good ones, but of course they are all going to take blood, sweat, tears and money. That’s going to be tough. We have scheduled a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17. We’re going to see what sort of turnout we get. There will be a discussion with Alison Nicholson from the Hub. It will be great to have a chat with her. We’ll then have a much better idea about it,” Leischner said.
There have been lots of suggestions about what might be done with Yount.
“There have been so many schools in B.C. that have remade themselves in so many ways. They’ve been repurposed. They’ve been located anywhere from small towns — much smaller than Youbou — to schools in cities.”
Leischner is more familiar himself with what has been done in the north than on the Island but he agreed that a real advantage is that the school is a quality-built structure.
“There is no doubt about that. It’s large, though, and one of the things we don’t want to get into is in someway intruding on the CVRD and Youbou Hall [located across the street]. We would have to be doing something that’s complementary, not in competition with them.”
Cowichan Station’s Hub doesn’t have that problem. The old school building is the hall for that community.
“We would have to be able to look at it in a different way. I’ve seen schools in the north that have been repurposed as arts centres. The school in Wells was used for many, many years by the Island Mountain School of the Arts. And now they have their own centre. That school has managed to stay alive because of that. I think Wells has only about a third of Youbou’s population. And Wells is also located at the end of a road, maybe even more than Youbou.”
There are so many options.
“Could we even turn the school into an artistic centre, a destination, something that could work year round, where people could come to Youbou for all sorts of classes and workshops? A retreat centre. That could be great. We also thought of having musical workshops a la Cold Snap in Prince George where they run their week-and-a-half long music festival where performers that are on stage also provide music workshops for folks who sign up. There are all sorts of ideas for the place.”
This is all going to start with a brief tour of the school on Nov. 17 starting at 7 p.m. followed by the meeting in the nearby Youbou Church, starting about 7:30 p.m.