School board fences with bears, municipalities By Chris Woodall Fencing Howe Sound school yards to keep bears and cougars away from children could prove to be too expensive. The school board operations committee looked at protecting students from the large wild beasts in light of concerns that Brackendale students might be in danger from bears hiking to the nearby dump. "The dump will be closed soon, so it won't be a drawing card, but if the school was built on an old bear track, they might come anyway," says board chair Constance Rulka. Other schools may have similar situations with bears or cougars, Rulka acknowledges. While enclosing school yards in wire fencing might provide some protection, Rulka says it could be an expensive — and ultimately futile — project. A cost can't be determined because of various factors, including fence height, and the area to be closed off. And a fence may do more harm than good if the wild animal found itself within the confines of the fence and became frantic in its efforts to escape, Rulka says. As well, vehicle access to school property would prevent a total enclosure, she says. In other business, the operations committee also wants to act on a provincial government push to get school boards and the towns they serve to determine new school sites. Bill 43 requires municipalities to get developers to set aside a certain percentage of a development for park and school lands, and for the town to work with the school board. "That just seems to be common sense," Rulka says. "But we have written to all three municipalities and the regional district to ask to be on their agendas sometime in the next three weeks." The fast pace of economic development in Whistler, for example, means future school sites have to be earmarked before other development occupies the best locations, Rulka says. "Our schools are bursting at the seams and we're already needing new ones," Rulka says.