While school boards in Vancouver and Prince George are facing budget shortfalls, the Sea to Sky district will be getting a boost of $75,000 to its budget after a Games-time rental was recently secured for Whistler Secondary School (WSS).
News of the rental by Contemporary Securities Canada comes after months of disappointment and concern from local parents about Whistler's high school taking a break from classes for almost a month - Feb. 8 to March 2 - without an Olympic tenant for the building.
On Monday (Jan. 18), Rick Hume, director of facilities and services for School District 48, said a deal was recently reached with Contemporary Securities Canada to rent WSS's parking lot and a small area inside for a staff lounge from Feb. 6 through March 1.
"They're using the school more or less as a transportation hub," Hume said.
The security company is providing screening staff for the 2010 Olympic venues and has an accommodations camp set up on the Rainbow land just north of WSS. Hume said the school parking lot will be used to run buses and vans to take security staff members to and from their work sites each day. An area inside the school and washrooms will be provided for the drivers and other staff members working at the transportation hub.
Hume said Contemporary Securities Canada is paying $75,000 for use of the facility. The school district will cover snow removal costs, heat and light, and 24/7 staff to supervise use of the building, he said.
Any remaining rental revenue is earmarked for the general district budget, not specifically for WSS, Hume said.
"I think it'll go in and help balance the budget," he said.
Cathy Jewett, president of the Sea to Sky District Parent Advisory Council, said the rental "might temper" some of the "distress" on behalf of parents who were concerned about the prospect of WSS not being used during the extended Olympic break.
Parents were "very disappointed" that the school wasn't being used, and they wanted the WSS Olympic break to line up with that of other district secondary schools, she said. In lieu of spring break, other district secondary schools are closing for two weeks from Feb. 15 through 26.
But Jewett said at $75,000, perhaps the value of the rental isn't enough "gain for our pain." Considering that some local homeowners are receiving as much as $50,000 to rent their homes for the Games, the $75,000 parking lot rental "doesn't seem like it's really equitable," she said.
"I think it's awfully good value for them (Contemporary Securities Canada)," Jewett said.
She supports the school board's decision to add the rental revenue to the general budget and said the board is making every effort to put as much money as it can directly into schools. With funding cuts from the Province, it's a tough time for school boards and this money won't be some kind of "slush fund," she said.
"It will benefit the community," Jewett said. "(But) there will be a sense of 'it's a pity it's not more.'"
Meanwhile, the municipality's recreation department is also booking rentals of the WSS gym during Games time to Canadian and international sports teams, said Roger Weetman, manager of recreation services for the municipality. Teams are looking for dryland training space in the resort, and with availability at Myrtle Philip Community School mostly booked up, rentals are coming in for WSS and Spring Creek Community School, he said.
Slots from 4 to 7 p.m. are getting filled at WSS and some morning bookings are also coming in, Weetman said.
Sports groups are paying the municipality's standard rental rates, and the money will provide a revenue stream for the municipality, he said.
"It works out well," Weetman said.