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School district hires consultant for VANOC negotiations

Deal may produce money for kids’ camps during Olympic spring break



The Sea to Sky School District has hired a consultant to help it negotiate the use of space in its schools during the Olympics.

The main negotiations are with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC), which has shown some interest in renting out Whistler Secondary.

"(VANOC) has experts in the field of negotiation and so on and that is not something we felt we had the expertise for," said school board chairman Dave Walden in explaining why it was decided to hire a consultant.

The district has hired former Interior school board member, realtor and current Village of Pemberton Councillor Ted Craddock.

Walden said the district hopes to use some of the cash from the deal to pay for all the costs associated with reaching the deal.

"The amount of time staff have had to spend on this so far... when you add it all up, is a quite a significant amount of time, and again we are supposed to be running a school district and this is money for schools for kids," he said.

The district also hopes to get enough money from the deal to be able to aid parents working flat out to service all the guests in the Sea to Sky corridor during the Games by helping to provide camps for young kids.

In 2007 VANOC requested that all four high schools in the district be closed to house volunteers and other workforce during the event.

VANOC asked that elementary schools stay open because it recognized that working parents would have to take vacation at Games time to look after their kids if they closed. The Resort Municipality also wanted the schools to stay open.

However, after community meetings and a survey it was decided that all elementary schools would close for a spring break week during the Olympics, the high schools in Pemberton and Squamish would close for two weeks and the Whistler high school would close for three weeks and two days.

(In Whistler, 32 per cent of those who responded to the board survey on the school closures said they felt the schools should stay open.)

District secretary treasurer Nancy Edwards said other organizations, such as sport committees, are also interested in space in the schools. But the board wants to wait until negotiations are complete with VANOC before moving forward with any of these as that deal will impact what, if anything, is offered to kids out of school at Games time.

"We have been approached by about four different parties already for the use of any space we could free up for them, so something may come of that," said Edwards.

"...Part of why we are not going full hog on the rentals right now is because we are trying to get the lay of the land, because we may well use those elementary schools for our own children."

VANOC declined to be interviewed about the negotiations but said they were continuing.

The district has nine elementary and four high schools that may be of interest to renters in the communities of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

Under the approved school calendar:

• Spring break for Whistler Secondary will be moved from March 8-12, 2010 to Feb. 22-26, 2010 and the school will also be closed for an additional two weeks prior to the moved spring break and two days following the moved spring break, resulting in a total closure from Feb. 8 to March 2, 2010.

• Spring break for Whistler area elementary schools will be moved to Feb. 22-26.

• Spring break for all Squamish and Pemberton schools will be moved from March 8-12, 2010 to Feb. 22-26.

• Pemberton, Don Ross and Howe Sound Secondary schools will be closed for an additional week prior to the moved spring break.

• Mamquam Elementary School was to discuss coming back to school early this fall in response to the Olympic school calendar.

• Vancouver and Richmond schools will not be closed at Games time. West Vancouver schools will be closed as usual for two weeks for spring break.

• The Parent Advisory Council at Myrtle Philip School will host a meeting on Whistler at Games time on April 7, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a presentation by John Rae, Manager of Strategic Alliances for the RMOW. All are welcome. Childcare is provided.