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CONTRIBUTION · 7th August 2010
Madeleine Robinson
July 23, 2010

I am responding to an article published in the Terrace Standard on July 08, 2010 titled, “School District loans a Kitimat PAC $12, 000.00” relating to the “phase 1” renovation cost at Mt. Elizabeth Secondary School tennis courts. To provide some history, the high school tennis courts have been in a deplorable state for approximately 12 years. Previous attempts with the Board of Education have been explored to repair these courts so that students can access this outdoor activity on school premises once again. Unfortunately, we were told there is lack of funding to repair these courts so our PAC began investigating grant opportunities. PAC has applied for various grants such as the “School Community Connections” (see http://www.schoolconnections.ca for more information) grant in May of 2010. We had initially applied for this grant to turn these courts into an outdoor recreation facility which would consist of 2 tennis courts, 1 basketball court and 1 road hockey court. We were denied the “SCC” grant. The unfortunate part is that the funding would have been minimal as the $30, 000.00 had to be split amongst all the school applications in our District. This is roughly a $150, 000.00 project when completed. PAC has also applied for a grant with Rio Tinto Alcan and will apply for a Community Grant with the District of Kitimat in Jan 2011 as well as apply once again for the “SCC” grant in the spring of 2011 to hopefully secure enough funding to complete this worthwhile project.

In the meantime, we thought we could at least start “phase 1” of the project so that students could access this facility in the 2010/11 school year and this was the reason for the $12,000.00 loan request. We organized a small parent volunteer group to remove the vegetation and shrubs growing in the cracks, garbage, ect., and hauled 4 truckloads of debris to the dump and then pressure washed the cracks. This was a full week’s worth of work which resulted in a cost savings of approximately $2000.00 off the total budget. The $12, 000.00 was to hire Kentron Construction to crack seal and drill holes. PAC would also purchase court equipment such as; 2 basketball systems, tennis court posts and nets and hockey nets. The previous Tennis Club was also willing to donate any items they had in storage to save costs. Unfortunately, as we were pressure washing the entire courts, we realized that the water was pooling which meant we needed to spend more money to add perimeter drainage and a manhole to repair this problem. We could not proceed with “phase 1” and contacted the Board of Education to cancel the loan. We extend much appreciation to Gary Mouland, Brian Seaby and Glen Robinson (parent volunteers) who dedicated their time and labour to save money and to improve the present state of the courts. We also received letters of support from the School District, District of Kitimat, Kitimat Child Development Centre, school staff and community members who used to use this facility when it was operational.

Previous PACs negotiated agreements with the Board of Education to pay for playgrounds for elementary schools and a sports bus for the high school which would not exist today without PAC funding. PACs fundraised and these loans were paid back in full in a short period of time. These playgrounds and the sports bus benefit students immensely. The sports bus is utilized to transport students in town to attend extra-curricular programs and out of town for school sports related events. It is definitely a cost saving measure. In regards to the PAC loan request for the courts, intended to repair school property, we were recently notified this loan would have to be paid back with interest in accordance with the School Act, as stated by the Ministry of Education. We would never have requested a loan in the first place had we known that there would be interest charges at market rates as this does not comply with PAC provisions. Please refer to this website, http://www.hsd.gov.bc.ca/gaming/grants/docs/cond-pac-dpac.pdf for more information on use of PAC funds. PACs (Parent Advisory Councils) are non-profit organizations run by parent volunteers that have children enrolled in the school. We experience a turn- around approximately every couple of years as children graduate and as parents take on new roles making it difficult to recruit members but have managed to fulfill these roles. To explain our funding, last year, due to Government cuts, PACs only received $10.00 per student and this year the amount has been re-instated to $20.00 per student. This is not a lot of money to distribute but we do our best to use this money to enhance extracurricular activities at the high school. We run a tight budget within our school with this limited funding and do not have the manpower to fundraise a large amount of money to pay for large expenses. We do not have the capability to fund a project of this scale as these gaps continue to increase due to inadequate funding.

One of PAC’s purposes is to “promote the education and welfare of students” and in order to achieve this we were trying to work together to provide outdoor physical activity for the students at Mt. Elizabeth High School. The Government promotes “daily physical activity” in schools and as stated on the Ministry of Education website, http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/staying_healthy_safe_at_school.htm , the province will make new tools available to parents and teachers to encourage children and youth to be more physically active as was our goal for our Government going into the Olympics in Vancouver. Our goal was exactly the same, to provide physical activity for all students. At present, these courts are unsafe for anyone (students or the community at large)to use and remain locked up and ignored. We are ashamed of the state of these courts and our main goal was to make improvements on school property and provide a safe place for our students to be physically active as well as open up this multi-purpose court renovation to the entire community.

As we look into the future and notices of consideration of another school closure in our community and the possibility of the move to a middle school/junior high concept, we need to be ready to ensure that our students are afforded every possible advantage from high quality instruction to small class sizes as well as recreational activities for all. As parents, we try to raise our children to be happy and healthy in all areas of their life. By fixing and maintaining the courts, for multiple activities for students, we will once again be capable of providing students with activities that they may be trying for the first time and may eventually excel at. In the current state of our economy we are obviously aware of the need for restraint; however, it should be the Board of Education’s mandate to ensure that all areas of the school are safe for both current students and the students of the future.

The District of Kitimat recognized the importance of the Kitimat Ice rink to afford members of the community a recreational outlet for skating and hockey. The courts at MESS would be a fantastic addition over the spring, summer and fall.

Although we have received a lot of support for this project, most people agree PAC should not foot any portion of the bill to repair school property and other comments relate to the fact that one would not see a disgraceful state of disrepair of school property anywhere else and question why this happening in Kitimat. Most agree Mt. Elizabeth Secondary School in general needs to be the main focus of attention to bring it up to par with other schools in British Columbia.

If anyone has any suggestions regarding the court renovation matter, please contact the Mt. Elizabeth PAC by e-mailing mtelizabethpac,,,live.ca and for more information about PAC, please see the Mt. Elizabeth Secondary School website link, http://mtelizabeth,,,cmsd.bc.ca , the PAC tab is on the left side bar menu. We will post any updates on the grant progress and wait patiently for responses on funding requests.

Madeleine Robinson
M.E.S.S. PAC Secretary