Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Provincial spelling bee s-c-r-a-p-p-e-d

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The sad, first and only word in this school year's provincial and national spelling bees: Spell the word "cancelled."

Used in a sentence: Postmedia has cancelled the Canspell National Spelling Bee after eight years that saw tens of thousands of kids in grades 4 to 8 standing in their classrooms and spelling out words syllable by syllable.

"It was cancelled at the national level (by Postmedia) because of lack of sponsorship," Christa Richard, manager of public relations and sponsorship for the Winnipeg Free Press, said Wednesday.

The Free Press has sponsored the annual provincial spelling bee, held each February.

"We had discussed trying to keep the Manitoba bee going, but costs would be significant," she said.

Materials had come from Scripps, which holds the enormous international spelling bee in the United States each spring, Richard said. Some Canadian students made it to the Scripps competition each year, though numbers have varied.

It is not yet clear if provincial organizers could reach a deal with Scripps, she said.

If organizers could find a major sponsor and reach agreement with Scripps, Richard said, it may be possible to resurrect a Manitoba provincial spelling bee in the 2013-14 school year.

The decision was difficult, Postmedia vice-president of communications Phyllise Gelfand said from Toronto. "Postmedia inherited the program from a previous company. In review of our corporate-giving strategy, the difficult decision was made that we would no longer subsidize this initiative. We continue to support literacy programs in the communities we serve through a variety of other programs, including Raise-a-Reader and Newspapers in Education."

Winnipeg School Division teacher Tina Hellmuth said it would be a shame to lose the spelling bee.

"I've run spelling clubs with students for the past six years and see how much they enjoy it, and how it puts an emphasis on using richer vocabulary and spelling accuracy. It would be a shame to see this die without a fight," she said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 13, 2012 A12

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