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Letters to the Editor

Here's what's up with high-school ed, more dog talk, GST talk, and it's dim the lights for Festival of Lights


School has responded to needs and demands

RE: Demand more for children (Pique letters Oct. 12)

I would like to thank Squamish resident Jeff Wilgosh for writing this letter to the Pique. Whenever a school embarks upon a new program and/or implements new technology there are invariably questions and sometimes misunderstandings that arise. I would like to take the opportunity here to address some of these misunderstandings.

# 1 – “Whistler Secondary Students are not able to take all the courses required to continue their education.”

Any course that a student requires to both graduate from high school and get into any university or college program in Canada or the U.S. is offered at Whistler Secondary School. As a matter of fact, Whistler Secondary offers a number of courses over and above those required for university entrance, such as Calculus 12 for example.

# 2 – Whistler Secondary School has limited course offerings and thus less flexibility due to “a lack of teachers.”

Whistler Secondary School actually has a limited timetable due to the number of students enrolled at the school. To explain more fully; schools are funded on a per student basis. In other words, the number of students attending a particular school determines the budget of the school, the number of classes a school may have and thus how many teachers can be hired. It is worth noting that the Howe Sound School Board actually puts extra money into funding Whistler and Pemberton Secondary schools over and above what the Ministry funding formula allows. This means that we are able to offer a greater number of courses than other schools of our size.

# 3 – Students taking on-line courses at Whistler Secondary “are forced to teach themselves through online distance education referred to as ‘learning labs’.”

Created three years ago, Whistler Secondary’s Flex-Ed program, uses on-line courses to provide students with a means of working at their own pace with teacher supervision. As a general guideline each learning lab is limited to 20 students with a maximum of four different courses in each block. A teacher is assigned to each class that is a specialist in the given area of study. Rather than being created to “teach students responsibility” the Flex Ed program was actually created to maximize flexibility for a number of different student learning needs: 1) Students who wish to accelerate their program and thus graduate early 2) Elite athletes and performers who miss a great deal of school due to a busy race/performance schedule and 3) Students that cannot fit a course into their timetable due to scheduling.

There is no doubt that small schools face a number of challenges in the areas mentioned above. However, through innovative teaching methods such as web cast courses and on-line learning, Whistler Secondary offers its students a full slate of courses. It should also be noted that our students consistently perform above the provincial average in both Grade 10 and Grade 12 provincial exams. In addition, Whistler Secondary’s Flex Ed program will be a featured at the Ministry of Education’s Innovations in Education conference on Dec. 8 th !

Lastly, I would encourage anyone with questions regarding Whistler Secondary to call us and ask. It not only gives us an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings that may be out there, but also gives us an idea of what some of the community concerns may be. Many of the programs in place at Whistler Secondary today were developed in response to issues raised by parents and community members.

Beverley J. Oakley

Principal, Whistler Secondary School


Thanks for the Light

We have just received word that the Festival of Lights has been postponed this season. On behalf of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Festival of Lights Committee who have contributed an enormous amount of time and effort to this community event.

Over the last two years, the Festival of Lights has contributed $18,000 to the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program. These funds were used to help further our grass-roots skiing program and to help foster new athletes in the Whistler area. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of this amazing, community-minded group of individuals, we have the potential of seeing a local athlete on the podium in 2010.

We will look forward in anticipation to the next Festival of Lights and would like to thank again the efforts of Ann Chiasson, Barb Cofield and the rest of the team at the Festival of Lights Committee for their generosity.

Chelsey Walker

Executive Director

Whistler Adaptive Sports Program



No parent can afford to be smug

I would like to clear up some misinformation in a letter from Mr. Wilgosh of Squamish last week. First of all, Mr. Wilgosh states that students at Whistler Secondary are “ not able to take all the courses required to continue their education.” T he District 48 School Board created a policy to guarantee that all core subjects are available each school year in all our district schools, including Whistler Secondary. Furthermore, Whistler Secondary has an excellent academic record.

There is structure and supervision in the electronic learning environment. Learning labs have been created so that students in different courses can work together in a computer lab with a teacher in the lab for learning support. Our district is setting up e-classrooms so that a teacher in Pemberton can teach his or her class at the same time to a class in Whistler (with a teaching assistant present). Electronic learning allows students who are willing to do the extra work, early gradation or educational enrichment (gifted). It allows our small rural schools to offer more courses.

Just because you live in Squamish doesn’t mean that these issues will not affect you in the future. While Whistler and Pemberton have tiny student bodies compared to city schools, Squamish is not in the urban leagues either. Urban secondary schools have 1,500-2,800 students. The secondary (Grades 8-12) schools in Whistler and Pemberton have approximately 350 students each, while in Squamish, Howe Sound Secondary has 750 students.

No parent can afford to be smug. The provincial government is asking parents to join the education community to provide accountability for the quality of our children’s education. That means parents need to be involved. At the school level the parent organization is called the Parent Advisory Council (PAC). Parents also sit on the School Planning Council (SPC) with school staff; they analyze data and create a school growth plan. Parents have many other potential volunteer roles in our schools besides advocacy. At the district level each school has a representative on the District PAC. DPAC is asked for input from the school board, the Ministry of Education and the B.C. Council of PACs (the provincial parent organization).

DPAC sits on the School District Budget Committee, the District Learning Roundtable and the Distributed Learning Committee (electronic education). We are attending the conference on Rural Education, a BCTF conference, District Visioning, a meeting with the Minister of Education and two BCCPAC conferences on leadership within October and November. Parents are the only unpaid participants in all of these activities. As well, we are hosting a forum for district PAC executives and SPC members Oct. 25 at Brackendale Elementary.

So Mr. Wilgosh, if your child is young, this means that if you start now you can ensure that your child and all the other Howe Sound students will have the best education possible. To paraphrase a John Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your school can do for you. Ask what you can do for your school.”

Cathy Jewett

DPAC Chair

Howe Sound School District



An abomination on the landscape

RE: Grizzlies living on Olympic doorstep (Pique, Oct. 5)

I applaud Alison Taylor for reporting the truth. Finally, we are beginning to see the real picture. In addition to cost overruns, and broken promise, the “Green Games” will also be leaving significant environmental scars in the form of lost biodiversity. The bears that use the Callaghan Valley form the most southerly line of extinction along the coast. If we are truly dedicated to achieving sustainability as a community, any impacts to that species in that valley must not be allowed to take place.

Any way you look at it, the grizzly population is going to be negatively impacted from the presence of the Nordic centre. Consider that VANOC was reluctant to acknowledge the presence of grizzly bear from the beginning. Evidence indicating the presence of the bear within a kilometre of the proposed location for the Nordic centre is buried deep in the Environmental Assessment but that info never made it to the surface. It is important not to let VANOC’s frail claims of being green blind you. There is nothing green about the 2010 Games, even though some will continue to beat that drum. What we have here is an absolute abomination upon our landscape with no net return to our natural environment, only costs.

The obligations outlined within the Environmental Assessment tie VANOC to a set of obligations. Indeed, during the bid phase a commitment was made to enhance and protect our natural environment. However, in 2010 VANOC will dissolve and a Legacies Society will take over and VANOC will wash its hands of those promises. This is a ridiculous event that will pass largely unnoticed to many. By 2010 nobody will remember those obligations and the damage will be already be done. The grizzly (and perhaps other species) will be gone from our area and we will have nobody to blame but ourselves for allowing this to happen. Perhaps VANOC should adopt a grizzly as its mascot. At least then we can be assured that there is one bear left in the area.

As Councilor Zeidler states, we can’t reverse what has been done to date. The clearcut is in place in the Callaghan. The daylodge, parking lots, roads, and ski jump, etc. are in the works. However, we can put a stop to the legacy trails. Let’s stop this story from becoming a larger nightmare. Voice your opposition to the creation of a trails system in the Callaghan.

Wendy Horan




Rebate program crucial to tourism

This letter was addressed to MP Blair Wilson. A copy was forwarded to Pique.

RE: Opposition to the Cancellation of the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program

We are writing on behalf of Tourism Whistler’s 7,000 members, which represent businesses and property owners in Whistler, with respect to our concern surrounding the pending decision to eliminate the GST/HST exemption for travellers.

We would like to draw your attention to this matter and add our voice to the opposition to this move, which will have a significant impact on Canada’s leisure, group and convention travel sector. Given our focus and reliance on tourism in Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor, and Whistler’s contribution of approximately $1 billion (more than 10 per cent of British Columbia’s tourism revenues), any barrier to travel to Canada is critical for our region.

There are several important factors to point out:

• Tourism is an export industry — a third of Canadian tourism revenues derive from spending by international visitors — and must be treated like all other export industries, which are exempt from value-added taxes like the Goods and Services Tax and the Harmonized Sales Tax.

• The GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program, although modest by international standards, contributes to Canada’s competitiveness as a destination. All other countries we compete with provide rebate programs to visitors, and removing the GST Rebate Program will inflate our pricing in foreign markets by 6 per cent.

• The federal government acknowledges the many difficulties confronting the tourism industry and yet, when considering the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program, did not consult with stakeholders.

• The government is underestimating the unique impact this measure will have on convention business because the focus has been on the individual, discretionary aspect of the rebate program, which we understand had been estimated at only 3 per cent. In the convention industry this is much higher — likely close to 100 per cent — as this is very much used as a sales incentive in what is already a highly competitive international sector. More than 30 per cent of room nights sold in Whistler are attributed to group business so you can see the potential impacts.

Given this context, the elimination of the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program could have a more significant long-term impact on Canada’s $62.7 billion tourism economy than any other development in the past 10 years, including 9/11 and SARS.

We ask that you support the maintenance of the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program by expressing your views in caucus, by speaking out against it in the House of Commons and other venues, and by voting against the bill that seeks to eliminate it.

Rick Clare, Chair

Barrett Fisher, President

Tourism Whistler



Do the right thing too...

I apologize for writing about another dog attack so soon after a previous letter, but it seems that there is more than one irresponsible dog owner in Whistler.

My 6-month-old puppy had an unprovoked attack by two off-leash pitbulls at Alpha Lake Park on Thanksgiving Day.

The pitbulls were accompanied by a girl named Shelby who claimed not to be the owner of the dogs; however, that did not stop her from bringing them to a public park and letting them off leash in front of a number of small children and other dogs.

Shelby left the scene immediately after the incident while I took my puppy to have his ear, neck and chest stitched up.

If you are the owner of these two pitbulls — one is a large white dog with large brown spots and the other is smaller in size with brown brindle coloring — I beg you to muzzle your dogs and ensure that they are never in a position to hurt a child or another animal ever again.   If you would like to do the right thing and take financial responsibility for what your dogs have done or at very least to acknowledge the incident, please contact me at 604-220-9803.

Nicole Chambers