Funding cuts lead to library closures at schools 

Government proposals to help improve student achievement

The Ministry of Education has announced two major proposals in its continuing quest to raise student achievement across the province.

The first outlined a standardized Code of Conduct for schools and the second offered a five-point action plan to provide new educational resources for parents and teachers.

And while many believe the proposals are good news those in the trenches — parents, teachers and administrators — would be happier if the government was doing something about the loss of services in schools due to funding cuts.

"Teachers are concerned with more immediate issues," said Howe Sound Teachers Associations new president Carl Walker.

"Things like lack of funding, cuts to non-enrolling positions like librarians and special education, so I think from our point of view this just seems to be another distraction from the real issues."

Walker said there is still a lot of concern over large class sizes and loss of services.

For example a Grade 8 Physical Education class in Squamish has 40 students and Whistler Secondary has no librarian.

Don Ross Secondary has a 12.5 per cent librarian.

"But we are very concerned about the library situation in particular in Howe Sound," said Walker.

"This is a disturbing trend in our local district."

Parents are also very concerned.

"There are quite a few parents who are quite concerned with what has been going on at the high school," said Kris Shoup, chair of Whistler Secondary’s Parents Advisory Committee.

"There is no teacher librarian. That is huge. There are no teachers’ assistants. It is totally unbelievable.

"I can’t imagine that (the students) will be allowed to go in. How can they have the library open with no one there? I don’t know what they are going to do."

Whistler Secondary’s librarian left just before school started to take up a new position in another school district, and shuffling within the school means that currently there is no funding for the position.

However, Principal Ken Davies said plans are being made to let students use the library. Students will go to the facility with their teachers and the facility will be open part-time.

"We are providing some service to the library through our teacher assistants," said Davies.

"We are in consultation with the district to see where we go next. It is my hope that if we can afford it, we would love to reclaim some library service time.

"We are always concerned when kids are losing access to the library."

Acting school superintendent Dallas Cristofoli said the school board was very much aware of the situation and was working to remedy it.

"We are making sure that through teacher assistant time, and certainly we have some qualified people in the library, that we will make sure that the library hours for access for students is even better than it was," she said.

Budget cuts are also affecting Myrtle Philip as is the forthcoming split in the school population as Spring Creek Elementary gets set to open in November.

"School counsellors have virtually been eliminated, playground supervision is suffering, these things and much more are being splintered further with budget cuts and the new school opening," said Myrtle Philip PAC chair Cathy Jewett.

Jewett and Shoup both welcomed the idea of a standardized Code of Conduct for school but pointed out that Whistler’s schools have codes of their own.

And as far as the school board went the announcement was also a bit anticlimactic as local trustees are already working on a Code of Conduct.

"This is already being addressed as a major priority of this board," said Cristofoli.

Myrtle Philip’s PAC meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the school on Sept. 16. Spring Creek’s PAC meeting will also be on Sept. 16, in Toad Hall at Myrtle Philip. It will start at 6:15 p.m.

Whistler Secondary’s PAC will meet Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at the library.

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