The 700-seat addition at Sullivan Heights Secondary in Newton has been under construction for several months. This was where construction was at on May 7, 2020. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

The 700-seat addition at Sullivan Heights Secondary in Newton has been under construction for several months. This was where construction was at on May 7, 2020. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

‘Building schools is the answer’ to Surrey’s overcrowding problem

District looking at building 13 schools over the next decade

In the next 10 years, the Surrey school district is hoping to have 13 new schools built.

At least that was part of their $1.38-billion capital plan request to the provincial NDP government at the Sept. 16 Surrey Board of Education meeting.

Then on Sept. 21, BC NDP Leader John Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24.

“We’re sort of hoping that whoever is in power will honour what’s been put forward,” said Laurie Larsen, Surrey Board of Education chairperson. “We always have done this 10-year, five-year capital plan in the hopes that most of the projects will be approved or approved in some scale.”

READ ALSO: Surrey school district proposing 13 new schools in the next decade, Sept. 19, 2020

Some of those projects include a new high school near 152nd Street and 66th Avenue to ease crowding issues at Fleetwood Park, Frank Hurt and Sullivan Heights, which was the most overcrowded school in the district in the 2018/2019 school year at 153.4 per cent capacity.

At the Sept. 16 board meeting, Kelly Isford-Saxon, manager of demographics and facilities planning with Surrey Schools, presented the district’s long-range facility plan and five-year capital plan.

“We want to significantly reduce the number of portables in our district. We need to acquire new sites in our new neighbourhoods,” she said.

Enrolment at the elementary level, Isford-Saxon said, could go as high as 52,676 students by 2029 and for secondary, as high as 35,383 students. That would be a little more than 88,000 students in the Surrey school district within the next decade.

As of Oct. 1, 2020, 72,549 students were enrolled in kindergarten to Grade 12 at the district, with 43,515 in elementary and 29,034 in secondary.

Isford-Saxon said that around 2024, student spaces and enrolment in elementary schools “almost” align, but growth continues at a higher rate than new student spaces afterward.

As for secondary, she said the need for spaces is “quite high,” adding that not only will there need to be additions at existing schools, “but we’re also suggesting a need for a new high school, if not two.”

Garry Thind, a Surrey school board trustee on leave while he runs as the BC Liberal candidate for Surrey-Fleetwood, said if elected, the BC Liberals “will make sure that Surrey receives the fair share that we need going forward, especially when it comes to capital funding.”

Thind said the BC Liberals have a “track record in the past” and have “given a lot to Surrey.”

“Although, the number dropped in the last three years of their tenure from ’14 till ’17. We didn’t get our fair share of schools.”

Thind later said he was referring to, “The NDP is advertising that the Liberal government only gave one school in the last three years of their tenure. The fact is that before the election in 2017, the Liberal government announced $100 million worth of new schools, additions and seismic upgrades and land purchases, which NDP cancelled quite of those and re-announced them again, claiming that was their announcement.

Asked if he thinks the Surrey school district got its fair share of schools in the BC Liberals’ last term, Thind said, “Absolutely. That’s right.”

READ ALSO: NDP would get Surrey students out of portables and into real classrooms, Horgan says, April 19, 2017

But Jinny Sims, who is running for re-election with the NDP in Surrey-Panorama, says the NDP has managed to “expedite” the building and approval process with the help of the project office.

That project office, which has liaisons from the City of Surrey, the Surrey school district and the Ministry of Education, was started even before the NDP was elected in 2017.

Sims said since coming into power, there have been 18 projects in Surrey in the works, but, “Of course, we still have a huge number of portables and kids sitting in portables because we have more schools to build.”

That means looking for and buying more land “because we need to build more schools and I think we’ve got to carry on building and expanding so that we can catch up.”

And Trustee Terry Allen agrees that “building schools is the answer.”

“Under normal circumstances in a non-pandemic year, we have 1,200 (new) children a year. Well, think about it: That’s two elementary schools a year.”

Allen said it’s “not possible” for the Surrey school district to ever be without portables.

“If the city was to stop development, then yes, it’s doable but they’re not going to stop development,” he said. “Why would we deny people the right to live in an area in the Lower Mainland where affordable house – a lot more affordable housing – is available more than anywhere else?”

Larsen said that in Surrey, because of the city’s growth, “there will always be portables.”

READ ALSO: ‘We will never get zero,’ Surrey school district staff says of portables, Jan. 14, 2020

Asked if she thought the district had been at all neglected in the last 10 to 15 years, Larsen said: “Certainly, and that’s as my comment as a trustee and probably not as board chair, but I do feel, certainly, it was. I think, maybe the government at the time was really not aware of the massive growth of Surrey and didn’t really understand the impact.”

BC politicsBC Votes 2020EducationSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

rcmp
South Surrey neighbours’ calls to police lead to break-and-enter arrest

‘Prime example’ of RCMP and public working together, constable says

Members of the Wheeling 8’s dance group go on a roll at Surrey’s Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in 2018, during the club’s 45th-anniversary event. If not for the pandemic, such activities could be socially prescribed as part of a new program involving Fraser Health and DiverseCity Community Resources Society. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
‘Social prescriptions’ connect Surrey seniors to activities and other services they need

Fraser Health-backed program involves GP referrals to a Seniors’ Community Connector with DiverseCity

Linda Annis, Aug. 12, 2020. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Annis wants independent auditor general for Surrey

‘Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall,’ Surrey councillor says

SkyTrain’s end of the line, for now, in Whalley. (File photo)
Provincial budget watchers lament no mention of Surrey SkyTrain expansion

But $1.66 billion is earmarked for a second hospital for Surrey, in Cloverdale

The Da Vinci Experience is scheduled to open at Tsawwassen Mills (5000 Canoe Pass Way) in June, with early bird tickets for shows July 15 to Aug. 15 on sale now. (Submitted photo)
‘Immersive art experience’ in Tsawwassen to showcase work of Leonardo Da Vinci

The Da Vinci Experience to open at Tsawwassen Mills in June, early-bird tickets on sale now

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Playland at the PNE is set to reopen this May, with COVID-19 health and safety measures approved by the province. (Website/Playland)
VIDEO: Playland at PNE scheduled to reopen this May to masked customers

British Columbians are discouraged from travelling outside of their local health authority to visit the theme park

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Most Read