school response 

Whistler school site should pique province Cash is faster if site donated, says school board By Chris Woodall Whistler and the Howe Sound district school board should be able to pry capital funding for a second elementary school out of the provincial treasury a little easier now that Intrawest has donated a school site. "When we get sites donated, it certainly helps the case," says Nancy Edwards, school board secretary-treasurer. The province announced Wednesday that Howe Sound district is to get nearly $1.8 million in capital funding this year. The money is targeted for an addition to Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School that will provide space for 100 students; and to replace the roof membranes for various district schools. Whistler is mentioned in the announcement, but only to provide money to investigate acquiring a school site for a second elementary school. But with Intrawest's recent revelations, that investigation becomes redundant. Intrawest has stepped forward to donate a site for an elementary school in a new south Whistler neighbourhood called Spring Creek. It also said it will provide land for, or donate some capital funding for, a day care facility to be associated with the school. It mystifies the school board, however, that the province's ideas of where capital funding should go don't mesh with the school board's priorities. The school board develops a capital plan and prioritizes school projects based on that. Last year Brackendale Elementary was No. 1 on the priority list, Signal Hill was second, a new Whistler school was third and an addition to Myrtle Philip Elementary School was fourth. None of those schools are addressed in this latest provincial "gift." The capital funding is part of $338 million the province is shelling out to district school boards. The Ministry of Education says the monies will create 17,200 new student spaces. Of the total, $31.2 million will be invested to eliminate portables, part of a five-year plan to reduce the 3,091 portable classrooms currently in use to 1,500. Myrtle Philip school, meanwhile, has three portables to help it house 473 kindergarten to Grade 6 pupils. Since 1991, when there were since 270 Whistler elementary students, the local school population has grown at a rate of 30-40 new little scholars a year. Even if capital funding comes lickety-split, it may be two years before the Spring Creek school opens. Myrtle Philip could have as many as six portables by then to help serve a student body of 550.

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