Decision on 2010 school calendar mid-November 

Results of survey on proposed closures now available online

The Howe Sound School Board will decide Nov.14 whether to adopt a proposed school calendar that would see Whistler schools closed for the Olympic Games.

There will be two meetings before then for education stakeholders, including parent representatives, to ask questions and give feedback.

“What I have to say to parents is that we are not going to have a couple of years to give (the board) input,” said Cathy Jewett the chair of the District Parents Advisory Council.

“They are asking for it now and we have to give it now.”

However, she said, parents want to make it clear to the board that the 2009-10 calendar proposal is not set in stone.

“So I would say we will agree on this subject to change,” said Jewett.

“It is not the final version and certainly that has been the mantra from (School Board Superintendent) Dr. Rick Erickson.

The proposal would see spring break moved from March to Feb. 22-26 to coincide with the last week of the Games. As well, Whistler’s elementary schools and the secondary schools in Pemberton and Squamish would be closed from Feb.15 to 19, the first week of the Olympics. Whistler’s secondary school would be closed for an additional week starting Feb. 8.

The board has also released the results of the survey, which included the option of closing schools during the Games.

About 32 per cent of those who responded in Whistler said they felt the schools should stay open. Approximately 26 per cent said they neither agreed nor disagreed on keeping kids in the classroom during the Games. About 40 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that classroom learning is so important that regular classes should be maintained throughout the period of the Olympics.

To see the survey go to: http://www.sd48.bc.ca/pdf/2010%20School%20Calendar%20Whistler%20Survey%20results.pdf .

Meanwhile the school district has also put forward a proposal to change its name from the Howe Sound School District to the Sea to Sky School District.

“The original name has been in place since 1946 when the centres of population were Woodfibre, Squamish and Britannia Beach,” said board chair Dave Walden.

“So that just shows how the centres of population have shifted.”

Walden also said Howe Sound is not a well-known place within the province.

“There are good things happening in Howe Sound and we would like people to know that they are happening in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton and the Sea to Sky is something people would recognize,” he said.

The proposal has gone out to educational and community partners for their input. Once that feedback has been given then the proposal will go to the Ministry of Education to seek the change.

Meanwhile the number of students attending school in the district has not changed over the past five years. According to information reported to the Ministry of Education on Sunday, Sept. 30, the overall average class size in the area for 2002 was 21.9 students compared to 22.2 students last year.

“We seem to have fairly stable numbers in the current school year in Whistler and Pemberton. And our numbers in Squamish, which have been declining over the past number of years, are increasing,” said district superintendent Erickson, adding that the Sea to Sky corridor has one of the youngest demographic populations in British Columbia.

The number of international secondary students in the area has also not changed this year. However, Erickson said the number of international kids enrolled at the elementary French program has dropped from 100 last year to 12 this year because of the lack of affordable housing in the area.

“The one agent that we dealt with had other programs… where he was able to have a residential component for them,” he said.

“That was a challenge he was having here.”

– With files from Claire Piech

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