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High school to remain closed for 17 days next year

Parents want Olympic break reduced; PAC chair hopeful compromise can be reached



It looks like Whistler's high school will stay closed for three and a half weeks over the 2010 Games despite a survey that found the majority of respondents wanted it shut for just two weeks.

The survey was carried out earlier this month by the high school's Parent Advisory Council on a very short time frame as the results had to be presented at the school district's meeting May 13.

It followed up on two letters that were submitted to the board in November of 2008 and on May 6 of this year, both stating that if the board did not rent out Whistler Secondary then the PAC would like the Olympic break reduced to two weeks, to match other high schools in the district.

But following the presentation of the survey findings to the board by high school parents Linda McGaw and Brian Buchholz the board voted to keep the current 2010 Whistler high school calendar, which sees the facility closed from Feb. 8 to March 2, 2010.

(The board did change the calendar for Squamish elementary schools allowing them to close for two weeks at Games time instead of one.)

The board is continuing discussions with other sporting organizations to rent out the Whistler high school, but it is unlikely it will be for the whole three-and-a-half week closure.

McGaw admitted to feeling very frustrated that the board did not make the change parents were asking for.

"It is very frustrating and it is tempting to throw up your hands and say this is hopeless but I refuse to do that," she said, adding that the topic will be discussed at the next PAC meeting May 26.

There were 116 returned ballots representing 143 out of 365 students.

Of those, 76 voted for the 10-day closure, 38 voted for the 17-day closure and two were spoiled.

Those in favour of the two-week break cited the disruption to education as the main reason for wanting a change. Those who supported the three-and-a-half week break mostly said they had already made plans to be away or had rented out their homes.

The staff was also surveyed with 23 ballots returned out of 26 total staff (22 teachers and four CUPE members). Of those 21 voted to close for 17 days and 2 voted for the 10-day closure. Many of those who supported keeping the current closure calendar cited concerns over absenteeism of the students.

District PAC chair Cathy Jewett is hopeful that there can still be some compromise on the calendar and that the days in the third week of the closure can be added back into instructional days, reducing the closure to 15 days.