Council doesn’t support elementary school closures 

Council is weighing in on the debate about school closures for the 2010 Games, coming out against the elementary schools being shut down.

At Monday’s meeting, council members unanimously agreed they do not support the concept of elementary school closures for the Howe Sound School District during the Olympics.

Councillor Ralph Forsyth, who is also the only member of council with children in the elementary school system, presented the position for council to consider.

“Many parents are very concerned they haven’t gotten the answers they want,” he said, after the meeting. “Without those answers I don’t think it’s a wise decision to move forward.”

The issue stems from the fact that many parents will be working hard during the Games and with young children out of school, they will be forced to find childcare or stay home to look after the kids.

“We know that we’re going to need all hands on deck to help with the Olympics, so what are we going to do with the children?” questioned Forsyth.

“Even if the schools did all close and everyone had enough money to pay for childcare every day of the Olympics, we don’t have enough people to look after them.”

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games and the District Parent Advisory Council have also come out against the proposed elementary school closures.

Council, however, supported the closure of the high schools in the district for a three-week period in order to help with VANOC’s accommodation requirements for the Games.

“We have a plan for (those students),” added Forsyth.

Council also directed municipal staff to offer support to VANOC and the school district in creating meaningful programs for the students, such as Olympic volunteer experience for 15 to 17 year olds, and an Olympic themed drop-in program for 13 to 14 year olds through the Youth Centre.

The school district is proposing to move spring break from March to Feb. 22-26 to coincide with the last week of the Games. Whistler’s elementary schools and the secondary schools in Pemberton and Squamish would be closed from Feb. 15-19, and the Whistler Secondary School would close for an additional week starting Feb. 8.

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