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SD48 continues to grow

More space may be needed, says superintendent

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The superintendent of the Sea to Sky School District (SD48) says that Whistler schools are "tight for space," and that the board is determining if it needs to expand.

"Whistler is very tight for space," said superintendent Lisa McCullough. "I don't know that (Whistler) needs a new school. (But) I would say (it's) high on our radar for space."

McCullough said that the school board is working with a consultation firm to determine its next steps. SD48, she said, is anticipating 4,900 students this year — a number that includes some 200 exchange students.

At this time last year, the district counted about 4,800 students in its ranks.

Last year, the B.C. Teacher's Federation won a Supreme Court of Canada decision that will restore a 2002 collective agreement that will reduce class sizes.

McCullough said that while the decision has forced SD48 to act quickly, the board's human resources department has stepped up to the plate to come up with additional space and teachers.

"We are doing very well compared to the rest of the province," said McCullough, who added that the board has filled challenging roles, like French immersion and trades teachers.

There are, however, still "a couple" of positions that need to be filled, she said, noting that is not unusual.

Last year, SD48 added an additional classroom at Myrtle Philip Community School by renovating a former computer lab.

This year, the board secured an additional portable for Spring Creek Elementary. (The portable will be leased to the francophone school district this school year, and then transfer to SD48 for the 2018-19 year.)

McCullough said a big focus for the school year will be to prepare for the 2018-19 year.

That's when B.C. high schools will adopt a radically new curriculum.

McCullough said that the changes — which will apply to grades 10, 11 and 12 — amount to "a whole new way of teaching and learning," with increased emphasis on "authentic projects" grounded in real-world problem solving and self-directed learning.

McCullough said that while changes are generally brought in incrementally, the schools will be offering a whole "new suite of courses."

Teachers will therefore spend this year getting familiar with the new curriculum and figuring out the best ways to communicate it, and guidance counsellors will familiarize themselves with what classes post-secondary programs will require of potential entrants, she said.

"We'll spend this whole year getting ready for (the changes)," said McCullough.

Over at Myrtle Philip Community School, principal Jeff Maynard is looking forward to the new school year, with students hitting the books on Tuesday, Sept. 5. "We're excited. It's looking like it's going to be a fantastic year," he said.

Maynard highlighted that students and teachers will now have access to a covered outdoor space. Built in the summer by the school's parental advisory committee, it will serve as an area to read, perform plays, and even prepare vegetables that come out of the school's multiple gardens.

"It creates another venue to get outside of the classroom," said Maynard. "Having some variety in their environment can spark different creativity and different opportunities for teachers."

As far as enrolment goes, Maynard said that all students who fall into the school's catchment already have places, and that there are "a handful" of others, who live outside of the catchment, who the school is trying to fit in.

Overall, McCullough said that while this year has presented some challenges, she is excited for what lies ahead.

"I'm very proud of our team," she said. "All hands were on deck to make sure we had great teachers. I feel very excited about our school district."

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