new school 

Second elementary school gets high priority A new Whistler elementary school has been given high priority by the Ministry of Education and the Howe Sound School District as a site selection process continues this year. Just prior to Christmas, the Minister of Education Art Charbonneau released five year capital plans for all 45 school districts in the province and four major capital plans for the Howe Sound District have been given high priority. According to Doug Courtice, Howe Sound superintendent of schools, the highest priority for local officials is to find a site for the proposed school, which would have a capacity for 50 kindergarten students and 125 students in Grades 1-6. The five-year plan gives high priority to an addition at Brackendale Jr. Secondary, a new facility at Blackwater Creek Elementary, a new elementary at Hop Ranch Creek in Brackendale and the second Whistler elementary. Courtice says as competition gets tougher for capital projects all over the province, the local board has to continue telling the Ministry of Education where the local priorities lie. "The process is very fluid because the ministry (of education) decides what they are prepared to fund and we might have some different priorities here," he says. "The board has to look at what is coming from Victoria and re-evaluate what money could be coming to the district and apply it to our priorities." The priority for this year will be to take the $20,000 allocated by the Ministry of Education to find a site suitable for an elementary school in Whistler. He says site selection in Whistler is always a difficult task because of the lack of available and accessible land with enough flat space to build an elementary school complete with playing fields. A preliminary investigation has a site pegged at 21 Mile Creek and another just south of Emerald Estates. "There has been a number of sites looked at in the past, but some of them you would have to bolt it (the school) to the side of a mountain," Courtice says. Sharon Jensen, chair of the Myrtle Philip Community School Parent Advisory Council says the length of time it takes to find a site, plan and build a school makes it necessary for the process to start right now. "The school population at Myrtle Philip is one of the fastest growing in the province," Jensen says. "We are operating out of portables; now is the time to start planning." Courtice says although the site selection is underway, there is no guarantee planning and then construction are soon to follow. Over the past year, he says, the district has received approvals for $50 million in capital projects — a sizeable chunk of the province's $300 million capital plan. "We got more than our share for capital projects so far, we shouldn't squawk loudly, we did well," Courtice says. "I think we will continue to do well as we are a growing district."

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