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Squamish schools may be reconfigured

No closures planned but some Grades may only be offered at one school


The Sea to Sky School District is evaluating a few changes to elementary and secondary schools in the Squamish area to address fluctuations in enrolment.

The Board of Education has ruled out any school closures similar to what communities in the Lower Mainland have experienced, but items that are on the agenda include elementary school boundaries, low enrolment and programs like French Immersion, and changes to the grade structures at secondary schools that are meant to enhance education and the range of programs available.

Currently Don Ross Secondary School hosts Grades 8 to 10 and Howe Sound Secondary School hosts Grades 8 to 12. Under the new reconfiguration plan being considered Don Ross would offer Grade 8 and 9 classes only, while Howe Sound would offer Grades 10 through 12.

The school board is hosting two public meetings to discuss the proposed reconfigurations. The first is on Monday, Nov. 30 at Don Ross Secondary School and gets underway at 6:30 p.m. The second is on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at Howe Sound Secondary School at 6:30 p.m.

If you can't attend the meeting you can give feedback at, or at Box 250, Squamish B.C., V8B 0A2.

School board chair Dave Walden is encouraging all parents to get informed and to provide feedback.

"We will be taking a look at elementary schools where enrolment is more of an issue (than secondary schools) and specifically Mamquam which we can't keep going the way it is. We're not looking at that until spring and we'll give a year's lead before we make any changes, but right now it's important to keep in mind that we're not even considering school closures for Squamish," said Walden.

The school board is currently in the consultation phase, but has commissioned a study on population growth in the area to determine what the future needs may be. As it currently stands there may not be enough students at Mamquam to offer both regular and French Immersion programs. "(The numbers show) that we just can't keep doing what we're doing, and we have to make changes to accommodate kids in their neighbourhood schools," said Walden.

If the issue is discussed in the spring the earliest any changes could be brought in would be the 2011-2012 school year.

Changes to secondary school classes would also be phased in over two years, but would start in the 2010-2011 school year.

"Those chances have more to do with an education rationale (than class sizes)," explained Walden. "We felt that it's better to have all the (Grade) eights and nines in one school, because the more kids of the same age group you have at a school the more choice you can offer. If memory serves Howe Sound is only two Grade 8 classes, but if we put that group together with Don Ross, all the eights and nines in one school, then we would be able to offer more classes and programs."

The board is also looking at the integration factor and the fact that Brackendale students at Don Ross can sometimes feel like outsiders when they arrive at Howe Sound Secondary for Grade 11.

As well, Squamish is still a relatively small community and class sizes can fluctuate significantly from year to year. By putting all of the students together the class sizes should also be more predictable.



Squamish weighs additional policing costs

Squamish council voted to issue a letter of support to Mayor Greg Moore of Coquitlam in opposition to the rising cost of the Police Records Information Management System (PRIME).

According to a staff report presented at the Nov. 24 Committee of the Whole meeting, the current budget for the service is $500 per RCMP member working in the community. However, with the cost of operating the system increasing the cost is going up to $1,000 per member, increasing the District of Squamish's annual cost for the service from $8,750 to $17,500 in the 2010 budget.

According to Mayor Moore, the province is reneging on its original agreement by downloading the costs of PRIME onto municipalities. PRIME was first introduced as a program that would have no cost to local governments, according to Moore. However, "Since it's introduction the costs have slowly transitioned to local governments based on what appears to be a decision by a Board of Directors that does not have municipal representation."

PRIME is an online police records system that links more than 9,000 police officers from 13 independent policing agencies, and 140 RCMP detachments. The program is also used by integrated teams like the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the Integrated Gang Task Force.