At least two parent advisory councils (PAC) in the Sea to Sky corridor have passed motions opposing various aspects of the Howe Sound School District's proposed calendar for 2009-2010.
The plan includes changing the date for Spring Break to coincide with the 2010 Winter Olympics as well as closing Howe Sound Secondary School for the week prior to the break.
Cathy Jewett, chair of the District PAC, opposes the effect on Whistler schools, which sees two-week elementary school closures and three-week secondary school closures.Jewett sent a letter to the board last Thursday (Oct. 25) outlining the council's position that elementary schools should remain open unless the care and instructional needs of all students can be met. The Whistler Secondary School PAC also recently passed a motion supporting only a two-week closure, as proposed for secondary schools in Pemberton and Squamish.
"I hope that it helps the school board understand what some of the challenges would be during the Olympics for parents," Jewett said of the DPAC's motion.
Unless more capacity for child care is created, working parents who won't be able to get time off during the Olympics will be forced to either quit jobs or leave their kids unsupervised, Jewett said.
"The working parents will have no choice. They will have increased expenses, they will have increased stress and they may not have child care that is efficacious," she said.
Questions remain about how senior students will be adequately prepared for provincial exams and how lost time would be made up."It's the grad parents really that feel their kids have the most to lose," she said.
Dr. Rick Erickson, superintendent of schools for the Howe Sound District, said feedback from the PACs is important and will be considered in the board's decision along with input from teachers, principals and the union local that represents school support staff. A roundtable discussion with representatives from each group is set for Wednesday (Nov. 7).
"The board's very open minded. They're looking at all the alternatives," Erickson said.
The board recognizes that if schools are closed, child care would be a "significant concern," but Erickson said the board would partner with VANOC and municipalities for care alternatives.
Several parent surveys have shown about 50 to 60 per cent of district parents would like schools to stay open during the Games. Such a split in opinion makes it difficult for the board to make decisions, Erickson said.
"That certainly makes decisions challenging because no matter which way you go, there's a significant group that would say 'Why would you do that?'" he said.
The board will make a motion on the 2009-'10 calendar at its meeting on Nov. 14 but a firm decision doesn't have to be made until May 2009. The proposal was made so far in advance to help facilitate discussions, and changes are always possible.