Spring Creek represents turning point 

The first school bell to sound in Spring Creek on the first school morning of September 2002 – if all goes according to plan – will represent a turning point in this young community’s life.

It will be the first time Whistler’s elementary aged children will not all be going to school together.

While they welcome the new school, some parents are still uncomfortable with that fact and they want to know just how the Howe Sound School District plans on drawing the boundaries that will "split" the community.

Those boundaries, said school board chair and Squamish trustee, Amy Shoup, will probably have been decided by this time next year.

Shoup was a guest at the Myrtle Philip parent advisory council meeting held Tuesday, Dec. 12.

She told parents the school district will probably start looking at drawing the boundaries in September or October of 2001, about one year before the school is slated to open. She said a decision could be reached within a month.

"From a technical point of view, deciding a boundary is not difficult," noted Shoup. "But it is very difficult from an emotional point of view."

The Grade 7s of the future will likely remain at one of the two elementary schools, depending on which catchment area they fall into. Grade 7s currently attend Whistler secondary.

Shoup said the boundary will depend on demographics. Kids who live within walking distance of Myrtle Philip, for example, could still end up falling into the catchment area for Spring Creek.

Hypothetically, said Shoup, if there were 300 children in Emerald Estates, Myrtle Philip would become Emerald’s school and everyone south of Emerald would have to attend Spring Creek.

This did not sit well with some parents who felt kids who live next door to Myrtle Philip should be able to attend that school.

Shoup noted that Squamish has an open boundary policy that could be adopted for Whistler. Under that policy parents can apply by Sept. 15 for children to attend a school outside their catchment area. If there is space in the required Grade, they will be accommodated. They will, however, need to reapply each year and stand a chance of being bumped. This could result in siblings being split between the two schools. It is a similar policy adopted by Lower Mainland school districts, noted Shoup.

Parents are anxious to know what their catchment areas are so they can form a Spring Creek PAC and start fund-raising for the new facility.

As parent Andrea Bayly pointed out, some parents who have devoted years raising funds for Myrtle Philip may well find their kids having to go to a school that will not have libraries as well stocked or have computer rooms that were paid for by things like the Father Daughter Dance fund-raising event.

There is also a concern that the community will be split between a have and a have-not facility.

Principal Bob Daly said the equipment from the Myrtle Philip portables will go to Spring Creek and it was noted that the $75,000 community school grant will now have to be divvied up between the three Whistler schools. That grant, noted one teacher, was key in helping get Myrtle Philip up and running. It was later split with Whistler secondary, which also has a community school designation. The ministry provides only one community school allotment per community and if there is more than one community school, the cash must be shared.

The Myrtle Philip PAC will also asses which of its assets can be split with the new PAC.

Shoup said the school board would be deciding at its Dec. 13 meeting on a date for hiring a new principal for Spring Creek. She said local teachers would be given preference in staffing the new facility.

All these plans, however, hang on the value analysis of the construction plans currently underway. This process, said Shoup, could take eight months and is completely out of the board’s hands.

The value analysis is conducted by the Finance Ministry. "It is a safeguard to see that the money is being spent in the most efficient way."

She noted a school in Squamish had to go through value analysis three times.

PAC co-chair, Cathy Jewett, said she hopes the ministry understands that Whistler has a short construction season and the longer construction is delayed, the more costs go up.

An August start, if the value analysis does take eight month, will be pricier, she noted.

Parent Karen Smith said the ministry also needs to account for higher construction costs in general in Whistler.

Shoup told parents the board has had problems with all their projects in that not enough money is provided for landscaping.

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