By Amy Fendley
Planning is underway, but construction will not begin until at least 1999 on the new Whistler Area Elementary School — the number three priority on the Howe Sound School District’s new five-year capital plan.
Trustees approved the board’s capital plan Sept.. 16, requesting a total of $30, 773,423 in provincial government funding for 13 capital projects planned for the 1999/2000 school year. The plan lists projects in order of priority, in the hope of securing funding for them during the next five years.
Priority number one for the district is a $6,798,478 major renovation and addition to Brackendale Junior Secondary School. A replacement of Pemberton’s Signal Hill elementary school is listed as the second highest priority, but will advance to top of the list once construction funds are announced for BBS.
The fourth priority outlined by the plan is a $1,522,951 addition to Whistler Secondary School.
Nancy Edwards, secretary-treasurer of the Howe Sound School District, says this year’s capital plan is "realistic," considering that Howe Sound remains the fastest growing school district in the province.
While the school board submits its list of capital priorities every year, the Education Ministry doesn’t always abide by the list when it hands out capital funds. The Brackendale renovation and replacement of Signal Hill were numbers one and two on the board’s list last year but the Education Ministry decided to provide funds for planning the Whistler elementary school.
School district officials are still waiting on the Ministry of Education for the $132,000 it announced last May was being made available for planning the Whistler school.
"It’s been announced but we haven’t got them to approve funding yet," said Edwards. "We would have liked to have had it approved by the first meeting to continue planning, but we’ve opted to ask for a larger school which is a clear indication of where the board would like to go with this."
The board is asking for additional planning funds and hopes to have them by next April.
It’s estimated the school itself will cost $3.9 million to build. Intrawest announced last spring it will donate a site for the school in its proposed Spring Creek subdivision, south of Millar’s Pond.
While the school is needed now, development of the subdivision won’t start until next summer.
The school had originally been slated to have a capacity of 200, but the board decided to increase the planned capacity to an estimated 300 students.
This year’s enrolment statistics indicate that Myrtle Philip community school experienced the largest increase in student enrolment among all of the district’s elementary schools. There were 514 students enrolled at MPCS Sept. 11, 1998, an increase of 40 students from 1997’s 474 enrolment figure.