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School district looking for calendar feedback

Parent comments wanted on three school calendar options



Parents of students in Sea to Sky country are once again being asked for input as the district works to create a new school calendar for the next three years.

The board has directed senior school district staff to survey parents and stakeholders then report back which calendar option the community prefers.

"The survey will run for three weeks," said district director of instruction Peter Jory. "We are planning on closing it on the 27th of October. That will give us time to collate our information and put it together for our presentation to the board."

The board of trustees intends to make the decision on the calendar issue during a regular board meeting scheduled for Nov. 13.

The options being considered are based on a one-week spring break, a two-week spring break or a scenario being dubbed "four breaks."

Jory said the four breaks option will have students in Sea to Sky country take a one-week break around Remembrance Day, the traditional two-week break at Christmas, a one-week break in February then another one-week break in April.

This could help parents who work in the hospitality and tourism industry organize family vacations, as it is generally impossible to go away when everyone else comes to the corridor to vacation.

Jory and other senior members of the school district staff are meeting with Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) throughout the district to discuss the options ahead of the survey release.

At a well-attended meeting with the Myrtle Philip PAC on Sept. 23, Jory said the survey will be conducted through the school district's website with notices going home to parents as well.

In addition to wanting to move quickly to get a calendar decision, the board of trustees wants to decide as soon as possible whether there will be a reconfiguration of the schools in Squamish. The discussion centres on a proposal to convert Don Ross Secondary (DRS) into a middle school attended by students in Grades 7, 8 and 9. Don Ross currently holds all the Squamish students in Grades 8 and 9.

At the Myrtle Philip Community School (MPCS) PAC meeting superintendent Lisa McCullough said DRS has room for more students and she added that the elementary schools in Squamish are quickly running out of space.

McCullough said Pemberton has the same issue and many parents there are pushing to have the Grade 7 students moved to Pemberton Secondary.

Elementary school growth in the district led to the hiring of four new teachers in Squamish and one additional teacher at Myrtle Philip this fall.

Parent Dave Clark pointed out at the Myrtle Philip PAC meeting that a baby boom bubble is approaching the Whistler schools with a large number of children born in the resort the last few years. McCullough acknowledged the boom and said Whistler has enough school space to accommodate the larger numbers, but she added that Pemberton is also facing the same baby boom and Signal Hill Elementary is currently "bursting at the seams."

With Squamish urgently needing a reconfiguration, MPCS PAC secretary Trina Talarico asked the senior school district staff member at the Myrtle Philip meeting if reconfiguration in Squamish will impact Whistler.

The school district officials said configurations in each community are determined by the needs of the communities and Whistler has enough room in its three schools to accommodate the student population growth expected over the next few years.

"We kind of think that Pemberton will just walk over," McCullough said of the possibility of seventh grade students there moving to Pemberton Secondary.

Jory said there are advantages and disadvantages to moving to a middle school system and Squamish parents will learn about the issues at an information meeting on Oct. 22 at DRS.

The reconfiguration issue in Squamish will be discussed at the Nov. 13 meeting.


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