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Parents not happy with school boundary options



Parents packed a Myrtle Philip Parents Advisory Council meeting this week to once again voice their concerns about the boundary for the new Spring Creek Elementary school.

Many felt betrayed in discovering that a boundary option outlined by the School Board which basically kept all the kids in the North at Myrtle Philip was never really an option.

"Why propose it if it wasn’t viable," asked Corinne Allison, referring to Option #1 in which all kids south of Blueberry, including Brio, Alta Vista and Westside Road would go to the new school. That would place 152 Grade 1-7 students at Spring Creek, with 18 in kindergarten. Myrtle Philip would have 315 students in Grades 1 —7 and 45 in kindergarten.

"When the new school was announced we all celebrated," said Allison after the meeting.

"But we didn’t realize it was going to divide our neighbourhoods up so drastically because of the heavier concentration of population at the north end of the village.

"White Gold is the southern most part of that northern population. Now they are thinking they need another chunk of population so they might take White Gold and Spruce Grove and send them down there.

"My children ride their bikes to school all fall and all spring. They can walk and now all of a sudden they have to get onto the highway and travel for 15 minutes. It just doesn’t make sense."

Spring Creek’s principal Ron Albertin worked hard to explain the rationale for the numbers.

"The first (option) is just right out," he told the parents.

"It just does not work with regard to the numbers."

Many parents were disappointed by his replies. Albertin could only promise to forward their concerns to the school board following the Tuesday night PAC meeting.

Parents also questioned whether or not the School Board had taken into consideration the expected growth in population at the south end of Whistler.

"We don’t know how many children are going to be down there so why don’t we wait for another year before setting the boundary?" asked one parent.

And housing administrator for the Whistler Housing Authority, Tim Wake, pointed out that just last week 60 employee housing units were sold in Spring Creek and he estimated that 15-20 kids would be moving into those homes upon completion in 2003.

He said he would forward any information about potential families living at the South end of Whistler to the Howe Sound School Board.

But PAC chairwoman Kris Shoup and treasurer Gary Pringle both pointed out that delaying the decision on the boundary would delay the formation of a PAC for the Spring Creek school and that would adversely affect fund-raising.

"We need a PAC to fund-raise," said Shoup referring to the $100,00 needed for the library and the $70,000 to $80,000 needed for the playgrounds.

The Spring Creek School will open in the fall of 2003. Currently plans for the building put it $200,000 over budget. Meetings will held this weekend with government officials responsible for capital projects to see how the cost overrun may affect the school’s construction.

The decision on the boundary will likely be announced at the School Board’s general meeting March 13 at Whistler Secondary.

All are welcome at the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m., but only those who requested to make a submission will be allowed to address the board. To date there will be four speakers, said board chair Amy Shoup.

"It’s unlikely that there will be anything new," said Shoup.

"We had... over a hundred people who gave us written submission. There has been a lot of homework done to this point in time so it is not likely that the decisions will not be made next Wednesday."

Shoup said the board did receive information on population growth in the South of Whistler from the municipality and from interested realtors and took the information into consideration as part of the deliberations on the boundary issue.

Shoup says Option #1, "is still an option."

But she added: "...Given the criteria that the board adopted I don’t think it is the most viable option."

The criteria for selecting the boundary options are:

• The capacity of the school and the current and future enrolment must be in balance.

• Bussing of children will be minimized where possible.

• Main highway arteries shall form the boundaries wherever possible.

• Francophone students will attend where space exists.

• Children should be able to walk or ride the bus to school rather than be driven to help reduce environmental impacts.

• Cross boundary attendance should be minimized to ensure the viability of both schools.