Having secured board approval for the use of fields at two elementary schools for camping, Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) organizers last week asked local school trustees to OK the use of a third school field.
Paul Runnals, executive producer for SVMF organizers Brand.Live, on Wednesday (Jan. 15) assured the board that the company will work to ensure that the field at Howe Sound Secondary School (HSSS) is restored to full playing condition in time for the 2015 football season if it's damaged by campers during the Aug. 8 to 10 festival.
Based on what occurred at the 2013 festival, significant damage to the HSSS and other fields is unlikely, Runnals said. After 7,000 campers occupied Centennial Fields last year, garbage was picked up within two days and youth soccer games occurred on the fields the following week, he said.
“It's been our experience that the type of crowd we attract is not a problematic crowd. We've had no issues with our crowd in that [field damage] regard,” he said.
SVMF organizers are planning for their fifth event in Squamish in 2014. Post-2013 festival, some parts of the Centennial Fields were top-dressed and re-seeded, Runnals said.
“Regardless of any outcome here, we'd be pleased to work staff to ensure proper remedial work on those [school] fields,” Runnals said, adding that the post-event work includes sweeping the fields for metal fragments and removing anything that could pose an injury risk to field users.
On Nov. 13, trustees approved SVMF's use of fields at both Squamish and Mamquam elementary schools for camping during the 2014 festival. SVMF agreed to pay a $2,500-per-field rental fee and damage deposit for use of those fields.
Christina Moore, District of Squamish spokesperson, on Thursday (Jan. 16) said festival organizers still require temporary use permits (TUPs) for use of the school fields.
Organizers — who hope to secure camping spots for some 21,000 festival-goers as part of an effort to increase the 2014 festival's capacity to around 35,000 — have already secured TUPs for use of parcels along Pioneer Way, just north of the Sandman Hotel. A development permit that includes a riparian-areas mitigation plan, a site alternation permit and a building and fire review are still required for the Pioneer Way site, Moore said.
Runnals said organizers anticipate applying to the school district for permission to allow campers to bring alcohol onto school grounds at HSSS and Squamish Elementary. It's likely that no such permission will be needed for Mamquam Elementary, as camping on that field is to be reserved for festival staff and families, with a “quiet zone” after 10 p.m., he said.
Trustee Andrea Beaubien raised a concern about the campers bringing a “party atmosphere” that might be disruptive to nearby neighbourhoods during the festival. Runnals said organizers are working on a plan that aims to minimize any disruption and a separate plan for managing the flow of pedestrians moving between their campsites and the festival grounds.
Board chair Rick Price said trustees planned to discuss the HSSS request and would let organizers know their decision in the near future.
Boundaries on the way
The board also voted to approve “catchment area” boundaries for Squamish-area early French immersion programs, but not to enforce those boundaries when early immersion programming begins at Squamish and Garibaldi Highlands elementaries in September.
Jody Langlois, district assistant superintendent, said that while officials feel it'll be necessary to enforce catchment areas in the future, it wouldn't be fair to do so for the 2014-'15 school year because officials weren't “crystal clear” that such boundaries would be enforced when they put out the call for registrations.
One-hundred seventeen students have signed up for early French immersion in Kindergarten and Grade 1 for next year, Langlois said. It's anticipated that three classes will be offered at Garibaldi Highlands and two at Squamish in the fall, she said. For this fall, district officials plan to contact the registered youngsters' parents to sort out which school they'll attend, she said.
Beginning in 2015-'16, the catchment area for early French immersion at Garibaldi Highlands Elementary is to include the previously set areas for Garibaldi Highlands and Brackendale elementaries and the portion of the Mamquam Elementary service area east of Highway 99. The Squamish Elementary catchment area will include service areas for Squamish, Stawamus, Valleycliffe and the portion of the Mamquam service area west of Highway 99.
The board voted unanimously to send a strongly worded letter to B.C.'s ministers of education and energy over the recent decision not to exempt school districts from anticipated B.C. Hydro rate hikes.
Ralph Hughes, the district's assistant secretary treasurer, said officials anticipate the graduated rate hikes will cost the district about 10,000 additional dollars for the current school year and $46,550 for the 2014-'15 school year. Meanwhile, school districts are required by law to submit balanced budgets and no new provincial money is being made available.
In making the motion to send the letter, Beaubien said she thinks now is the time to “get a little bit political” on the issue.
“This is one public body putting the screws to another public body and I would advocate doing this over simply telling our students and staff to put on another sweater,” she said.
School District 48 and the region's First Nations are set to sign a five-year Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement tonight (Thursday, Jan. 23) during a ceremony at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler.
The district has seen the fastest-growing Aboriginal student graduation rate in the province over the past five years, with a six-year completion rate of 72.8 per cent, up from just 35.4 per cent five years ago. The new agreement, the second such five-year deal, was reached in consultation with the Squamish, Lil'wat and N'Quatqua nations, on whose traditional territory the district operates, and with the “lower lakes” bands Skatin, Douglas and Samahquam, whose students attend school in the district.
“The success of Aboriginal students in the district is a significant tribute to their hard work,” Price said in a statement. “It also reflects excellent collaboration and effort on the part of our educators and local Aboriginal communities.”