WHEN DOES THE FINAL BUDGET HAVE TO GO TO THE MINISTRY? Community school grant may not go to community school Myrtle Philip Community School is the only school in the Howe Sound School District that has been designated a community school, yet a draft of the district's 1995-96 budget contained plans to divert the majority of a $75,000 grant destined for the community school into general district coffers. That move had Whistler school trustees, Myrtle Philip administrators and community partners worried about the district's commitment to the idea of community schooling. According to Debbie Smythe, a member of Whistler's Community School Liaison Committee, if the Ministry of Education is going to create grants for community schools, then facilities with that designation should be receiving the largest portion of the funding. Last month, the Ministry of Education announced the Howe Sound School District would be getting a funding increase, putting the 1995-96 budget at just under $26 million. About 90 per cent of the budget will go to salaries and benefits for district teachers and staff. That makes dividing the remaining 10 per cent among operating costs and programming very difficult, Smythe says. "If the funds are not going to go to the community schools then they should not call it a community school grant," Smythe says. "The cost of running and administering a community school is a little more expensive and the Ministry of Education has recognized that through these grants." The $75,000 grants were initiated in the 1994-95 budget year by the B.C. Ministry of Education to offset some of the costs of community schools. Sterling Olson, an assistant director of school finance with the education ministry, says the grants are "not directed per se." "The Community School Grant was formalized for the 1995-96 budget year and it will become an annual grant, but the ministry does not specify that money has to be spent on community schools," Olson says. The idea behind a community school is to get as many community groups and activities going on in the school as possible so the facility is used not only for schooling but for recreation, community health and social functions. Mike Edwards, principal of Myrtle Philip, says the administration, communication and security aspects of running a community school creates a larger financial burden. "First and foremost it does cost more to run a community school," Edwards says. "The more successful you become, the more it costs." Myrtle Philip Community School has been very successful since the facility opened its doors three years ago. The Municipal Parks and Recreation Department has been offering recreation and educational programs at the school and Edwards says plans are to diversify into the community health area. "We are looking at providing more of a social services component as we try to get more and more of the community service groups involved at the school," Edwards says. "But it all costs money." Edwards says the $75,000 could be well spent investigating technological advances like voice mail systems that could relieve some of the telephone stress put on the school staff during events such as ski swaps and rummage sales when the school is deluged with phone inquiries. "The bottom line is the positive spin-offs from the operation of a community school are enormous," he says, adding he has received "strong indications" from senior school board administrators that as much of the community school funding as possible will be directed to Myrtle Philip. Whistler school board trustee Laurie Vance agrees with Edwards and hopes the funds stay in Whistler to expand the services offered at Myrtle Philip. "I am hoping that all of our schools will be designated as such in the years to come because of the improved levels of services we can provide, to both the school population and the community," Vance says. "From social services to adult education whatever may be, that's the kind of co-operation and co-ordination we need to have." The Whistler Secondary School, scheduled for completion in July of 1996, was designated a community school by the board on March 8. The Resort Municipality of Whistler and the school board signed a joint-use agreement for the facility March 20.