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Funding for Community Schools program will continue



The Community Schools Education Grant for Whistler is safe for one more year.

The provincial grant was in danger of being cut as part of the Liberal government’s fiscal restraint.

But, said Myrtle Philip principal Bob Daly, the grant will continue until the spring of 2003 or even the end of the school year.

"It’s definitely good news," said Daly, adding that it is still unclear what will happen to the grant at the end of the school year.

There may be other grants that can be applied against the programs. Private-public partnerships or sponsorships may even be investigated to keep programs going.

Several programs funded through the grant have been identified as crucial to save, said Daly. They include:

• A student call-back program;

• The supervisor safety aid;

• The behaviour support program;

• The library accessibility program, which keeps the library open at lunch hour;

• The field trip cost assistance program.

Many of the programs run are related to safety, said Daly.

Some, he said, could be offered on a user-pay system, but the preference is to keep them community funded.

The $75,000 annual grant also pays for three community school co-ordinators at Myrtle Philip, a safe school co-ordinator and student counsellor at Whistler Secondary and a host of other programs including KidSport Whistler, Internet Cafe and the co-ordination of services with Parks and Recreation for youth and adults programs held at the high school.

Money is also available for students to go on field trips and get speakers in.

At Myrtle Philip 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 discussions are in the early stages and no decision has been made.

The total budget for community schools around the province is $6.51 million per year. Currently the 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.

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

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.