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P: But isnt it misleading to just look at the average size?
B: We also monitor and manage individual class sizes. The point about the average class is that we have sufficient funding to have a size across the district averaging roughly 25 so if you see a significantly bigger class its not a budget problem per se but a problem in balancing the class registrations. For instance, if 34 students register for a high school class, what do you do? That's too many for one class but splitting it will create two classes of just 17 .
P: So are you telling me you dont have a budget problem?
B: No, we do have a budget problem. On a purchasing power basis we have probably lost five per cent over the last four years . We have been able to make up part of that through revenues from the International Student Program but the board is uncomfortable with having to rely on international students to make up what is a government-funding gap. This budget strain is not showing up in class sizes, it is showing up in teacher librarian ratios and a number of other areas such as difficulty in making progress on learning initiatives.
P: We keep hearing that students dont have desks and they dont have textbooks. Do we see that in our district?
B: I dont think we have any such issues that have not been addressed. As far as desks are concerned, I don't think that's true at all. What we have had from time to time is problems with our physical space, such as at Whistler Secondary, and that problem has been solved with the recent addition to the building.
Regarding textbooks, there may have been issues in the past but there should be none now. For instance, in September the district provided an additional $85 per student to schools from last years surplus with the direction to principals to spend the money on textbooks first.
Don Brett, a graduate from The Ivey School of Business at University of Western Ontario, spent 15 years with City Bank in international finance before coming to Whistler in 1999 and is the chair of the school boards finance committee.