Budget first priority for school trustees 

Chris Vernon-Jarvis, Christine Buttkus studying funding formulas

With Andrée Janyk stepping down after 12 years as a school trustee, Whistler lost a lot of experience on the School District 48 — also known as the Howe Sound School District, and soon to be known as the Sea to Sky School District.

Parents seemed to recognize that when they elected Chris Vernon-Jarvis to a second term, with Janyk’s endorsement. Christine Buttkus, known for her role as an administrator for the Whistler Children’s Centre, and her work with various non-profits, was elected as Whistler’s second trustee. The next term starts in December, coinciding with the finalized budget.

Vernon-Jarvis campaigned on a platform of sound management, rather than a response to every crisis, like the battle of the Olympic year school calendar.

“These things come and go, but the fact is that life goes on and if all you do is run around and look for fires to put out then you’re not paying enough attention to education,” he said. “We will deal with those other things, as we do in a very collaborative way, but education is always the priority.”

The primary challenge facing the board this year is a provincial change to the funding formula. Starting in September, the province has based funding for high schools on the number of courses taken, rather than the number of students. For Whistler Secondary — which offers a special program for sports and the arts that allows students to attend school part-time and take correspondence while they train and compete — that could mean less funding.

“This is certainly an enormous concern to us,” said Vernon-Jarvis. “This is the first year where we’ll be feeling the impact of that, as well as the impact of slightly declining enrolment. We’re not in the same position of many districts where the student rolls have declined more, and schools have been shut, but it’s serious enough to have an impact on our budget.”

Vernon-Jarvis said the budget is still in a process of negotiation. At the end of September the schools provide the Minister of Education with a list of students and courses, which the Ministry evaluates through October to allocate a budget. Through the month of November the school board goes through the provincial budget and ensures that it tallies with their original school budget, and the budget is finalized in early December.

Vernon-Jarvis says the schools will cope with the change to the funding formula and declining numbers this year without curtailing any important programs or deducting funds from teaching. However, he says they are watching the trends closely to determine what the future impact might be.

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