Parents oppose school closure plan 

>Board expected to make decision at Nov. 7 meeting

The organization that represents parents throughout the Sea to Sky corridor is not supporting a plan that would see schools closed for the 2010 Olympic Games.

In a letter to the board of the Howe Sound school district the chair of the District Parent Advisory Council, Cathy Jewett, said the group cannot support the proposal unless plans are in place to look after children in the community.

“Our position was that working parents would be hard pressed to find childcare if the schools closed and so to a certain extent it is a safety issue for the children because parents that work in the resort and a lot of other associated businesses in the corridor cannot get the time off,” she said.

“So parents would be faced with some really hard choices, those being if they can’t find child care to either leave children at home unsupervised, use unlicensed childcare, or quit their jobs.”

The letter followed a meeting DPAC had with representatives from almost every school in the district, RMOW representatives, Vancouver Organizing committee for the 2010 Games staff, a Howe Sound School Teachers Association representative, school trustees, and the superintendent of schools.

The position was also supported at the meeting by VANOC.

“We are recommending that the (elementary schools) stay in session, said VANOC spokeswoman Maureen Douglas.

“And we are doing so because we do have concerns over the impact that closing all the schools would have on childcare responsibilities for parents and the ensuing impact on the corridor’s workforce.

“From the time the school board and the PACs began to have meetings to discuss the issue until now it has just become more and more apparent what the impacts could be if parents are put in the position of trying to find childcare while they also have responsibilities at work, and that really concerns us.”

The school closure proposal put forward by the school district in September would see spring break moved from March to Feb. 22-26 to coincide with the last week of the Games. As well, Whistler’s elementary schools and the secondary schools in Pemberton and Squamish would be closed from Feb.15 to 19, the first week of the Olympics. Whistler’s secondary school would be closed for an additional week starting Feb. 8.

When it came to the secondary schools DPAC also had some concerns.

“As far as secondary students go we felt we didn’t have enough information to make a decision as to whether that was the best way to go,” said Jewett. “Until we see a full calender we can’t whole-heartedly back it.”

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