Waiting for Spring Creek 

Students, parents, teachers anticipating second elementary school

The Howe Sound school district will start discussions this month on where to draw the line for enrolment for the new Spring Creek elementary school.

The school is due to open in January 2003 and will have space for 430 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7.

"We are on target," said school board chair Amy Shoup.

"The project is far enough along that it likely won?t be affected by any cut backs."

That?s good news for Myrtle Philip principal Bob Daly.

"It will certainly be a welcome addition," he said. "It?s not been easy dealing with the growth we have had."

Daly said kids, teachers and parents have been very patient dealing with the inconvenience of learning in portable classrooms.

Trips to the washroom or other activities in the main school can be an adventure in Whistler?s winter weather.

"The teachers, the kids, and the parents we have had have been absolutely remarkable," said Daly.

"Its been a long wait. Its been a long tunnel but the light is there at the end."

The Spring Creek school is desperately needed. Myrtle Philip is bursting at the seams with 543 students, including those attending the Francophone school, sharing facilities meant for around 350.

This year Myrtle Philip received more students than expected said Daly, with about 25 new kids joining the school.

For the most part the school has grown every year since it opened at the Lorimer Road site in the early 1990s . The original Myrtle Philip school opened in 1976 where the Cascade Lodge now stands.

The meetings at the end of this month, said Daly, will focus on the demographics of where kids live in the valley and projections of numbers of school kids in the future.

"At the end of this month we are going to be looking at the populations in the different areas of Whistler and projecting enrolments that will be a determiner in terms of the boundary issue," said Daly.

There may also be further discussions on whether the Grade 7s should be returned to elementary school or remain at the high school.

There has been concern that the new school at Spring Creek will already be too small by the time it opens.

But Daly defended the school?s size saying the ministry of education and the school board have tried to be realistic in their projections.

He said the ministry learned some costly lessons in the past, lessons they do not want to repeat.

"The ministry, in fairness to them, have gotten pretty conservative because in years past they have gone along with district projections, not necessarily ours, ...then something happens and the enrolment isn?t realized and they are left with schools that are totally under-enrolled.

"The planning is sort of a fluid thing in that you are watching all the factors as you go along and you look for trends."

The drawing of boundaries can?t come soon enough for Myrtle Philip?s Parent Advisory Committee chair Chris Shoup.

"We want it done as soon as possible because we want a PAC for that new school to get into operation," she said.

Parents are divided over how the boundaries should be drawn between the new schools.

"There are a couple of camps and different feelings about it," said Chris Shoup.

"But we have to find out what the school board thinks should happen and deal with that decision."

Some parents feel any child within walking distance of Myrtle Philip should be able to attend that school. But that could mean kids from Emerald Estates would have to travel to Spring Creek to go to school.

"I don?t think that?s fair," said Chris Shoup.

Overall enrolment has hardly changed in the Howe Sound district over the last year with only two fewer students this year than last, according to statistics released this week by the school board.

Other statistics in the report include:

? Whistler Secondary is down 24 students from last year.

? Pemberton Secondary is down 14 students.

? Howe Sound Secondary is up three students.

? Stawamus Elementary is up 23 students.

? Signal Hill elementary is down one student.

? Brackendale Elementary is up 14 students.

There are a total of 4,700 students in the district.

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