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school priorities

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Learning about education The school board trustees sit in a nice row at the front of the Alex Philip room in the Myrtle Philip Community School. Gathered in the capacity crowd are parents, kids and teachers all intent on having their say as the trustees sit there and listen. Over the past month, the board of trustees for the Howe Sound School district has taken their travelling show on the road asking people in the north end of the district what they think about plans for the future of education in Whistler and Pemberton. The topics were wide and varied — what to do with transition students at the secondary level as the new Whistler Senior Secondary gets built and the replacement Pemberton Senior Secondary opens up, new elementary school priorities in Pemberton, Whistler and D'Arcy, late night bussing, course offerings if the number of senior students at either secondary increases and so on, and so on... The meetings at Whistler and Pemberton drew over 200 interested parents and students out of the woodwork. Local reporters realized that education might be a big issue and turned up en masse, even going so far as to ask students what they thought. According to Howe Sound superintendent of schools Doug Courtice, seeing this many people getting vocal and involved about the educational directions in the district is a positive step. "We have a lot of things happening in education in this district, a lot of positive and good things," Courtice says. "We're talking about everything from new schools to new programs and the opportunities we will have in the very near future to deal with technological advances in learning and education." Courtice says the recommendations and input voiced at the recent rounds of meetings were put into a report and given to the board at Wednesday's meeting. "If what the parents have to say and what we know to be educationally sound are compatible then that will be the basis for the recommendations that go to the board," he says. Traditionally, the only way for concerned parents to have input at the board level was to show up at regularly scheduled board meetings. With the amount of energy that was generated at the recent meetings, Courtice said regular input meetings in different parts of the district may be a good direction to head in. He says many of the problems in the school district are created by people not being fully aware of all sides of an issue, or not trying to find out the facts. "I wouldn't call this a new form of communication, I would call it an opportunity to communicate," Courtice says. "As long as people take the time to fully understand the issues, hear the views and listen we will all be a lot better off." According to Courtice, all of the new facilities in the district will be equipped with hardware to facilitate distance learning, and it might be time to look into the future and think about using technology to bring parents, board members and students closer together using video conferences. "That technology is available, right now, we don't have it up and running, but we will," he says. "The way the technology is advancing we can use it not to distance people, but to eliminate the geographic spaces that often keep us apart."

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