Our School History

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Setting the Scene

Frances Kelsey Secondary School (FKSS) is located in School District 79 (Cowichan Valley). School District 79 is a medium size district incorporating the larger communities of Chemainus, Duncan, Mill Bay and most recently Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island (midway between Victoria and Nanaimo) and FKSS serves the largely rural communities of Shawnigan Lake, Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay and Mill Bay.

Plans to build a secondary school in the south end of the district had been discussed among community members and trustees for more that a decade prior to the construction of FKSS in 1994. However, it was not until a rapid expansion of the population in the Duncan and Mill Bay area in the late 1980’s pushed the capacity of Cowichan Secondary School in Duncan (a 20-30 minute school bus ride from the south end of the district) to its limits and forced the Board of Trustees to appeal to the Ministry of Education to proceed with the construction of a new secondary school.

By September of 1992, Allan MacLeod, principal at Chemainus Secondary School was appointed to the position of Director of Personnel and Principal designate of the new south end secondary school. His new role in the Board Office was designed to provide him with the time to work closely with the architects during the design phase.

By the spring of 1993, plans were well underway. Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a former Cobble Hill resident, who was chosen as the school’s namesake, graciously attended the ground breaking ceremony. In the late spring of 1994, two vice-principals and eight department heads were appointed to the FKSS staff followed by 18 additional teaching staff.

Dr. Kelsey, MD Ph.D. worked for the US Food and Drug Administration in Washington DC. She is best known for her pivotal role putting a stop to the use of the drug thalidomide in the USA thus preventing widespread birth defects. She was given special recognition for her efforts by President John F. Kennedy as well in her later life back in Canada.

When classes began in September of 1994, Frances Kelsey Secondary was still not completed and therefore Kelsey’s grade 10 and 11 students along with the Kelsey staff were housed temporarily in Cowichan Secondary in Duncan.

On Monday February 6, 1995, 571 students in grades 9-11 poured in the doors of their brand new school to begin third quarter classes.

By 1990, the Board had put together a committee consisting of senior district administration, teachers, school administrators and south-end parent representatives to develop plans for the new school. In 1990, the Summary Report of the South Cowichan Consultative Committee was published. This document represented a distillation of the ideas gained by the committee during fact finding tours to other districts and schools in BC and Alberta, professional reading and research, numerous parent and community meetings and the advice and recommendations sought from parents, students, educators and other professionals for the design of the new south-end secondary school.

The document reflected the need to construct a school which not only incorporated local community desires for unique features that would support programs geared for the hospitality tourism industry such as a teaching kitchen and an auditorium which would lend support to a performing arts program and also serve as a large group teaching area. In addition, there was a strong desire to seek the most effective ways to incorporate the new principles of learning emerging from the Ministry of Education that stated:

* learning requires the active participation of the student
* people learn in a variety of ways and at different rates
* learning is both an individual and group process

In carefully examining how these principles might be addressed, the committee recommended that the self-paced, continuous progress model similar to Calgary’s Bishop Carroll Secondary School could be successfully implemented at the new south end high school.

By 1991, the site had been purchased and the firm of Dalla-Lana/Griffin – architects, had been hired to begin the task of designing a building that would later become known as Frances Kelsey Secondary School. Construction began in 1994 and the building was substantially completed by February 1995.

Frances Kelsey Secondary continues to evolve. We are proud of our traditions and roots while looking forward to be responsive to the needs of our students and community going forward.