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Myrtle Philip parents split on Olympic closure

PAC recommendation is to adopt Olympic calendar with February closure

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The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) at Myrtle Philip Community School voted to approve the proposed 2009-2010 school calendar on Tuesday night after a last-minute survey of parents failed to demonstrate strong support or opposition to closing the school for one week during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

PAC chair Beverly Lucas said about two-thirds of parents responded to the survey, which was sent out on Monday and asked if parents would prefer the school to remain open during the Games. The results, said Lucas, were about 50 per cent for and 50 per cent against — not enough to try to change the calendar, which was to be finalized at a Howe Sound School District meeting Wednesday evening.

The proposed calendar shows the elementary school closing for a one week period during the Olympics.

Although it wasn’t the first survey given to parents on the topic, Lucas felt that the earlier survey was too general.

“The first survey was so broad and included so many schools, and we wanted to get down to the Whistler level and say ‘if it was only about us, what would you vote,’” she said.

“A lot of the people who voted to keep it closed wrote comments, and said to keep the closure the same as the other schools. I know some parents are concerned because they also have kids in Spring Creek and Whistler Secondary, and wanted to be consistent.”

The Myrtle Philip PAC did contact Spring Creek and Whistler Secondary to advise them of the new survey, but both declined to be part of it and approved the proposed school calendar.

But while the decision is more or less final at this point, Lucas said a lot of families are still unhappy with the decision to close the school for one week during the 2010 Games.

“That 50 per cent against the closure really represents about 100 parents who said they wanted the school to remain open,” she said. “I think the majority are working parents, and they are concerned because there’s still no solution as to what to do with their kids. I know parents that may quit their jobs because their employers, the RMOW or Whistler-Blackcomb, are saying they can’t take that time off. A hundred parents is a lot of children that don’t have anywhere to go at this point.”

On the positive side, Lucas says the final decision will free up parents to look at other options during the Games.

“We don’t have a huge amount of time — the Games are less than a year and a half away — to plan for that many children, or to come up with a solution, or push Whistler-Blackcomb or VANOC to provide a solution,” she said. “It’s important to start now with that discussion.”

If the final calendar is approved, all elementary schools in the district will move March break to February to coincide with the second week of the Olympic Winter Games. Schools will be closed from Feb. 22-26, and will reopen on March 1.

Whistler Secondary School will be closed for three weeks, from Feb. 8 to March 2, while other secondary schools in the district will be closed for two weeks, from Feb. 15 to 26.

VANOC was interested in using Whistler Secondary during the Games, but has yet to finalize a deal with the school to lease out the space.

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