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Whistler high school will include Grades 11, 12 "Whistler Secondary — A Community School" is the official name of Whistler’s new high school and when it opens in September it will have Grades 11 and 12. A motion to keep Grade 11 and 12 students at Pemberton Secondary School "until such time as all parent and student concerns are addressed" was defeated at the regular board meeting of the Howe Sound School District last week. Some parents had been lobbying to have the new Whistler school open with Grades 7-10 and phase in 11 and 12 in a few years when Whistler’s population had increased. The rationale was that course selection would be limited at both the Whistler and Pemberton schools because the Grade 11 and 12 population would be split between the two schools. The motion, put forward by trustee Mike Moorhouse and seconded by trustee Jan Systad, was defeated for a couple of reasons, according to trustee Laurie Vance. For one, if the Whistler school didn’t open as a full secondary school it would lose some provincial funding. Also, both the present superintendent, Doug Courtice, and the previous superintendent, Dallas Cristofoli, supported a full high school at Whistler. While the grade configuration of the new school was resolved, the issue of amalgamating school districts is still up in the air. The Lillooet School District is not interested in amalgamating with the Howe Sound district, West Vancouver is not interested in amalgamating with any district, so that would appear to leave the Sunshine Coast as the Howe Sound district’s most likely partner. Education Minister Art Charbonneau announced in November that the number of school districts must be reduced by April and $50 million in education funding must be cut in the next two years. Charbonneau proposed the Howe Sound district amalgamate with the Sunshine Coast and Powell River districts. However, Powell River wants to merge with Campbell River. One of the conditions of amalgamation Charbonneau set is that any deficits existing school districts have must be covered by amalgamation. The Sunshine Coast district has a deficit of between $250,000 and $300,000 that the Howe Sound district would have to cover. The Howe Sound School District has been trying to save money and had earmarked 1.5 per cent of its overall budget for technology. That would have to go to Sunshine Coast’s deficit, if the two districts are amalgamated. The Sunshine Coast deficit was accrued during a special education audit a couple of years ago. When the audit found money that was intended for special education was being used for staff and administration the province withheld the funds, but not before the school district had already hired additional staff. In addition, the Howe Sound School District must cut $750,000 from its current budget in order to meet the Education Ministry’s reduced budget. Of the district’s $25 million budget approximately 92 per cent goes to wages, salaries and benefits. Charbonneau set an April deadline for school districts to come up with amalgamation proposals. The Howe Sound School Board will be in Sechelt in March to make a presentation to the ministry. The board expects to be disbanded by April 15. "The most unfortunate thing is that people at the local level won’t even know what hit them until it’s all over," says Vance. "People will lose a voice at the lower levels."

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