high school 

Incomplete Whistler Secondary School almost full The new Whistler Secondary School is not scheduled to open its doors until next fall, but Howe Sound School District administrators are already planning to expand the facility. The reason — a 60 per cent increase in the number of high school aged students from Whistler hitting the books at the new Pemberton Secondary this fall. According to Doug Courtice, Howe Sound School District superintendent, the Grade 7 class from Myrtle Philip Community School is set to move up to the new Whistler Secondary when it opens, further compounding the problem. Last year, 119 students from Whistler took the bus to Pemberton to go to school. This year the Whistler student numbers are at 192 — only eight students from capacity at the new 200-student Grade 7-12 facility set to open across from Alpine Meadows next fall. This has local trustees and administration at the school board office looking for options for finding funding to expand the school before it even opens. "The Ministry of Education is very reluctant to give planning and construction money until pupils are actually there," Courtice says. "The Whistler secondary student numbers have almost reached capacity and we may have to look at some portables on the site as a temporary measure until the capacity is surpassed." The school is built to house 200 students, but the core facilities such as heating can handle expansion up to 650 students. The school is designed in a "modular way" so expansion can be facilitated much cheaper than costly renovations and expansion, Courtice says. Planning funds for the expansion of the Whistler Secondary are already being included in the district's 1996-97 capital plan in which a total of $9.7 million is sought for capital projects throughout the district. Courtice says the Ministry of Education has recognized the growth of the district by providing nearly $50 million worth of capital projects in the past two years, but the growth in the Howe Sound District cannot be denied. "We are asking for $9.7 million next year, but we could be looking for up to $16 million per year over the following two years," he says. Whistler trustee Laurie Vance says Whistler has to be under the planning microscope, because the massive student growth at the high school level in Whistler indicates sound planning is going to be necessary to avoid space shortages in local schools. "We just don't fit the traditional formula for school growth," Vance says. "The growth we are experiencing is well above anything we had anticipated… there is just no way to predict how many families are going to move here once that new high school opens up. We could be in for a few more surprises."

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