On Tuesday the new Whistler Secondary will open, a year late, with at least 50 per cent more students than the school was built for and, depending on who you believe, with or without operating funds and equipment for all Grade 11 and 12 classes. In medical terms, it hasn’t been an easy birth. The decision to build a high school in Whistler in the first place was a debate that took a ministry-appointed investigator to resolve. Gib Lind was the man who ultimately decided new high schools should be built in both Pemberton and Whistler, rather than one new, large school in Pemberton. About three years ago the school board decided that the school would offer Grades 7-12 right from day one, rather than 7-10 with 11 and 12 being phased in as the population increased. The school that opens Tuesday is, by all accounts, a beautiful, first-class facility for 200 students. The problem is it isn’t big enough or well enough equipped for the more than 315 students expected. Unfortunately that’s a common scenario across the province. One of the consequences of too many years of fiscal mismanagement by too many provincial governments is an Education Ministry that can’t keep pace with the province’s growing population. It’s common for brand new schools in B.C. to open with portables, as the Whistler Secondary will. But it appears some of the funding problems for the Whistler Secondary were accentuated by administrative bungling. A letter from secretary-treasurer Nancy Edwards to the planning officer of the facilities branch of the Ministry of Education suggests funding for equipment for seven Grade 11 and 12 classes was not applied for until July 9 of this year. By that time the ministry had allocated all its funding for the year. The budget for equipment for one of those courses, Technology 11, was estimated at $126,000. Howe Sound School District Superintendent Doug Courtice doesn’t think it was a bureaucratic error by the district, but he is reviewing the matter. With the school opening in less than a week everyone has vowed to make it work, to do whatever is necessary to make sure the students get whatever they need to get the best possible education. The issue with the Whistler Secondary is whether that has been done right from the start.

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