Over the next three months the Howe Sound School Board has to find another school district to amalgamate with, cover any deficit that school district may have, cut $750,000 from its own budget and then hand over control of the new district to representatives from the Ministry of Education. These orders have come from Education Minister Art Charbonneau, who has announced he won’t be running in the next provincial election and last week fired the entire North Vancouver School Board. Also during the next three months, there’s a very good chance we will be in the middle of a provincial election and province-wide bargaining with teachers will be underway. These are the conditions under which local education policies are being planned and implemented. The end result, when the dust settles and school board elections are held next November, will be much less local input in each district and a reduction in funds — regardless of which party forms the next provincial government. For a district like Howe Sound, which is among the fastest growing in the province, doing more with less will be a challenge. What may be especially difficult to accept is paying off another school district’s deficit when the Howe Sound board has worked hard to build up a fund for computers and technology in the classrooms. There have been any number of battles within the Howe Sound School District over the years — taxation, representation, a high school in Whistler — and with a district as diverse as this perhaps it is to be expected. But in recent years the board, superintendent and administration have established a series of long-term plans, which have helped get the whole board moving in roughly the same direction. A new amalgamated district will take some time to establish similar priorities. All of which is not to say that the concept of reducing the number of school districts is wrong, if it can be done in a way that is agreeable to all districts that are amalgamated and does result in cost savings. What is ludicrous is the timetable and conditions under which amalgamation is expected to occur.


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