high school 

High school transition plans behind the eight ball Funding delays for the construction of the new Whistler high school have put local parents, students and school board officials in a predicament — there's no place for a bunch of Whistler kids to go to school come the fall of 1995. With the 1995-96 budgetary deadline looming in March and no decision made on what to do with Whistler students — who were supposed to be attending school at the new Whistler facility in September — Howe Sound Superintendent of Schools, Doug Courtice, says five options are being studied. At a mid-December school board meeting Courtice asked for input from parents and students in order come to a decision on where to accommodate students until the Whistler school is built. The plan includes a series of meetings, starting Jan. 18, when the school board and senior staff will meet with high school students from Whistler and Pemberton. The five options range from keeping high school students in Pemberton Senior Secondary and adding portables to Myrtle Philip Community School, to creating a temporary facility in Whistler using portables. All have substantial budgetary and logistical implications. Courtice says the cost of the transition scheme is going to be a big factor in the final decision. "No matter what the final decision is going to be there are going to be some budgetary implications," Courtice says. "If we say we could ship all of the kids to a private school in Switzerland and the local board is going to fund it, well, that is beyond the scope of reality. Somewhere in the middle there has to be a compromise." Whistler parents say compromise is fine, but if compromising is going to eliminate any of the five options already put forward, they would like to hear about it now, before they dedicate thought, time and effort to studying the options. Even though the Whistler high school is barely a hole in the ground, Whistler parents are in the process of organizing a Parents Advisory Council for the new facility, scheduled to open its doors in September, 1996. Craig Mackenzie, president of the new Whistler high school PAC, says parents want the straight facts on the status and plans for the transition years, not unnecessary rhetoric. "Nobody is saying the children are not going to get taught, they will have a teacher in front of them in a learning environment," Mackenzie says. "We would just like to know as soon as possible what, and where, that environment will be." "If this is an honest process, and that's yet to be seen, all the cards have to be on the table," Mackenzie says. "We have to know the costs of all the feasible options and whether or not the ministry (of Education) and the board are prepared to fund them. The ministry held up the funding (last year) and that is one of the reasons we are behind the eight ball, they may have to ante up some more funds." One of the factors in the picture is that when it comes to educating kids in Whistler and Pemberton, the students are often used as political tools, as schools vie for the diminishing educational dollar. At present secondary school students from Whistler are bussed to Pemberton, and there is a group who would like it to remain that way. "There are people who don't want the (Grade) 11 and 12 students in Whistler," Mackenzie says. Whistler high school PAC member Debbie Smythe, says politics can't be part of the transition process if the best decision is going to be made. She says Courtice asked for specific information from the Whistler parents on the logistics of the five transition options. He was sent a detailed list of questions to which he responded with vague answers, Smythe says. "We really didn't get any answers to any of our questions," Smythe says. "One of our biggest fears is that the players are now different and we have a different superintendent and the work we have done to this point may get shuffled under the carpet." The work Smythe is referring to is two years of meetings and decisions made by the Whistler Secondary School Planning and Advisory Council, which has been working on facility design, educational plans and a philosophical framework of the new Whistler school. "We do not want to see two years of meetings go down the drain," she says. "And for someone to say we have a lot of time to get this transition down pat is unfair, because as of today we have Whistler high school students who have no place to go."

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