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Whistler-Blackcomb Foundations donates $275,000 to Sea to Sky schools for technology



Schools throughout the district got an early Christmas present this year with the announcement this week of a $275,000 donation by the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation for computer upgrading.

"We thought it was a way that we could do something that would have a significant benefit and a lasting value," said Dave Brownlie, president of the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation.

"We are always getting asked for a little bit here or a little bit there. So we sat back and we thought if we could do something that was significant, something that would have a bit of a legacy, and a length of time to it and really impact the whole community from Lions Bay right up to Mount Currie, that would really be worthwhile."

School Board chair Amy Shoup was thrilled with the announcement.

"This will enable our whole school district be state of the art when it comes to technology," she said.

While many details have yet to be worked out on how the funds will be distributed work is already under way to create a district-wide five-year plan for technology needs. The money must be spent within five years of receiving the initial grant.

"The key thing to keep in mind is that the district will not be buying technology for technology’s sake," said schools trustee Don Brett.

"Technology is the tool. The fundamental issue is what are the learning outcomes or the educational outcomes that the district wants to achieve so the first step in the process will be the revising and updating (of the district’s) educational plan as far as technology is concerned.

"From that, the specific software and hardware needs will be determined, then after that we can begin to utilize the grant."

The grant will be distributed through the district’s Success Foundation, which was established for charitable donations such as this.

It will provide matching funds to schools for technology projects. So schools will need to organize and fundraise and then apply for matching money from the Success Foundation.

As well, the school district can decide to fund technology projects and those projects can get matching Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation money.

Decisions on where funding will go will be made by a committee of school representatives and the director of technology in consultation with Parent Advisory Councils.

The provincial government has never explicitly funded technology in schools. Rather it was up to districts and schools to decide if they wanted to spend budget money on computers and other resources.

"So this is not a case where we are stepping into a place where the government has funded it in the past," said Brett.

He also hopes it will provide a focus district wide on fundraising efforts and galvanize the District Parent Advisory Council members.

"I think it is absolutely fabulous that the foundation is showing such tremendous support for all the schools in the district and with this grant we will be able to leverage a big investment in the technology infrastructure in the district," said Brett.

He hopes the district plan will be in place early in the New Year and projects will be targeted not long afterwards.

A grant of this magnitude will also free up money in the school budget targeted for technology and allow it to be spent in other ways in the classroom.

Interim school district superintendent Dallas Cristofoli greeted the news with excitement.

"The generosity of the donation to How Sound School District is unprecedented," she said.

"It is a constant struggle to provide current technology resources to all of the schools in the district. The aspects of this donation that are particularly exciting are the vision for the corridor to connect as a whole and the partnership with parents through the District Parent Advisory Councils."

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