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Community programs threatened by Liberal Core Review



Locals are lobbying to save the Community Schools Education Grant.

The provincially funded grant is in danger of being cut as part of the Liberal government’s fiscal restraint efforts.

"There are crucial things that are not going to be there if the grant disappears," said Sheila Moses who is helping with a fax campaign to save the grant.

Moses is also a community school co-ordinator, a position funded through the grant.

The $75,000 grant also pays for two other co-ordinators at Myrtle Philip and Whistler Secondary’s safe school co-ordinator and student counsellor, as well as a host of programs such as Kidsport Whistler, Internet Cafe, and the co-ordination of services with Parks and Recreation for youth and adult programs held at the high school.

Money is also available for students to go on field trips and bring speakers in. It can even fund students to take courses such as basketball coaching.

"If the grant was not coming out next fall then the things... just listed are definitely not funded," said Moses.

Currently the funding is split between the two schools. The plan was to split it three ways once the new Spring Creek elementary school opened in the fall of 2003.

Smart money management in the past has left a small surplus, which may mean the programs may continue for a while if the grant is cut off in August, said Moses.

But if the programs are to survive it will mean forming new partnerships with organizations and seeking new funding.

Loss of the grant money at Myrtle Philip will have a serious effect on programs said principal Bob Daly who only found out the grant was under threat this week.

"This is significant, it really is," he said.

The grant keeps the library open at lunch, it has armed out-of-class supervisors with two-way radios, it allows a teacher supervisor to run the safety call back program, all Grade 4 students are taught water safety at the community pool, and all Grade 4 through 6 students are taught life-saving skills through the red cross.

It has also provided the emergency kits for every classroom and funded avalanche awareness, bike and wilderness safety programs.

The grant also pays for counselling programs for families and students demonstrating inappropriate behaviour. The list goes on.

There is some hope that the school district and the municipality may work together to keep things going.

But, said Bob Kusch, manager of program services for the RMOW: "The municipality may or it may not (fund the programs).

"What is going to have to happen is that a variety of different organizations will have to sit down and decide how that funding is going to be covered or if those programs will continue.

"So I can’t give you an outright yes and I can’t give you and outright no. It is going to depend on how those discussions go."

The total budget for community schools around the province is $6.51 million per year. That funding is provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

"Community schools develop and maintain programs, services, events and

opportunities to empower neighbourhoods to meet community needs and provide life-long learning opportunities," said Marisa Adair, assistant communications director for the ministry.

"While the ministry provides the funding, school districts are actually responsible for managing the community schools program. They receive funding directly and contract for services. This ensures program-delivery decisions are made at the community level.

"But there is a core review process on-going and everything is being looked at, including this contract."

The municipality currently spends $127,105 on community projects at Myrtle Philip, said Kusch.

It is projected that $70,000 to $80,000 will be needed to pay for community programs at Spring Creek, over and above the revenues earned from the services offered.

The construction cost of the community portion of the new school is expected to be $1.6 million.

The community space includes two multi-purpose rooms, storage and office space. The municipality is also paying to make the gym full size.

"The idea is that it will be a second community centre such as Myrtle Philip is for us," said Kusch.

Anyone interested in joining the fax campaign can send their thoughts to Premier Gordon Campbell, who chairs the Core Review Team, at 1-250-387-0087.

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