Funding for new Howe Sound teachers on its way Squamish mill closures create enrolment uncertainties By Andy Stonehouse Howe Sound school district officials will be meeting with area principals this coming week to help decide where new funding for teaching staff can be best put to use in Sea to Sky country. Nancy Edwards, secretary-treasurer for the district, said the district has just received notice from the province suggesting the district can expect funding for two new primary school teachers, depending on local enrolment numbers. Edwards said the staff increase stems from legislation introduced last month by education minister Paul Ramsey, enforcing the terms of a teachers' agreement between the teachers and the province reached in April. The agreement aimed to reduce class sizes in kindergarten and Grades 1 to 3, with $200 million promised and 1,200 new teachers to be hired over the next three years. School trustees across the province rejected the agreement, but the contract has been imposed. Edwards said this week's meetings will look at the actual demographic numbers throughout the district and determine which schools face the most significant staffing needs. "When our principals left at the end of June, this deal hadn't been ratified, and the legislation was not in place," Edwards said. "We hope to get some new staff in place by September. We've got people waiting in the wings." Combined with other new positions planned for the fall, Edwards said as many as seven new teachers could be on the job during the new school season, depending on funding and school enrolments. "We've recruited people into about 70 positions, and a lot of people who applied haven't found jobs yet, so they're still available," she said. Edwards said the district holds a list of teachers who will be given priority if the vacancies need to be filled. Edwards said enrolment numbers will be most uncertain in the Squamish area, where mill closures have left hundreds of families out of work and looking for employment in other communities. Little will be done to immediately reduce classroom overcrowding this fall, although Edwards said two of the district's existing portable classrooms will now go to Myrtle Philip elementary, with a third a future possibility. A further portable has also been requested for Whistler Secondary School. The provincial government said it will commit an additional $370 million over the next five years to help build more than 1,000 extra classrooms across the province.