Sea to Sky students set to hit the books 

Concerns remain around public education funding, says sea to sky teachers association

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - SLOW DOWN Slow down in those school zones — school is back in session Sept. 6.
  • File photo
  • SLOW DOWN Slow down in those school zones — school is back in session Sept. 6.

Parents rejoice!

School is back in session throughout the Sea to Sky School District (SD48) on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Students returning to Myrtle Philip and Squamish elementary schools may notice some changes to their surroundings, as both underwent renovations recently in anticipation of more students.

"Myrtle Philip had some walls removed and so on to make an additional classroom," said SD48 superintendent Lisa McCullough.

"And that means that they're down to their last classroom space now, so any growth beyond that classroom will need some consultation."

Enrolment numbers won't be nailed down for another week or so, but the last three years have seen a "significant increase" in enrolment at Whistler schools, McCullough said.

"It puts a lot of pressure on us for that space. We are hopeful that we got out in front with our predictions," she said.

"We do projection enrolments and we work with the demographer on that, so we're hopeful that by renovating Squamish Elementary and Myrtle Philip that we caught, to the best of our ability, what can be predicted."

But there will be more changes apart from the physical.

The new curriculum for K to 9 students is now in effect in all schools, while the new grades 10 to 12 curriculum is entering its final year in draft form.

"I think our teachers feel really confident about that new curriculum, and I sincerely think they are leading the learning around those areas," McCullough said, noting that the only feedback the district has had around the changes has been positive.

"Instead of focusing on memorizing facts, it's really focusing on students as thinkers, and allowing students some flexibility to do some thinking, show their learning in a variety of ways, and for teachers to try on some really new, innovative approaches to teaching in their classroom."

But the province hasn't done much to support teachers in implementing the new curriculum, said Sea to Sky Teachers Association president Steve Lloyd.

"The government is not putting in virtually any money into supporting the implementation of the new curriculum," Lloyd said.

"There's very little. So it's all on the backs of teachers who've seen their supports cut, and we really have very serious concerns about all that, but we are excited about trying to do a good job. There's been a lot of teachers working really hard on creating the new curriculum."

Lloyd said the current BC Liberal government has cut spending on public education from 25 per cent of the budget down to 13 per cent, while giving millions to private schools.

"So it's been cut in half," he said.

"The things that private schools advertise are the things we want to offer too — smaller classes, more individual attention, all the things that the new curriculum basically requires if you're going to do personalized learning.

"We want more capacity to be able to do that, and in order to do it and to do a better job of social and emotional support and learning, we need to restore funding to public education."

Despite the funding shortfalls, Lloyd said he's never worked with a group of professionals as creative and dedicated as SD48's teachers.

"We're very fortunate in this district to have people who are so dedicated to the kids and to education as a whole, and I'm not just saying that as platitudes. It's really quite remarkable how wonderful our teachers are here," he said.

"But they're doing it on their own steam, basically, and doing it in their own teams in the schools as we see supports cut back, and it gets harder and harder and harder to do it."

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