Four Surrey high schools are currently so overcapacity that the district has set up “waitlists” for in-catchment students.
According to a Dec. 10 memo sent to to principals from Surrey School District Superintendent Jordan Tinney, Fleetwood Park, Panorama Ridge, Semiahmoo and Sullivan Heights secondaries now have “designated waitlists for students who reside in-catchment but did not attend a feeder elementary school in the 2018/19 school year.”
The situation isn’t “entirely new,” according to Surrey school district spokesman Doug Strachan said, noting Sullivan Heights has had this in place for a “few years.”
Strachan said Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary also previously had this designation, but that changed with the opening of Salish Secondary this fall, as the new school provided relief.
But, even so, the number of schools with these “waitlists” has now doubled, from two to four.
It’s all a result of overcrowding in the ever-growing district, Strachan noted.
“Where we are now, is having to say ‘Sorry, but you’re going to have to go to a different school, we just don’t have the capacity here now. Even though you might be across the street from a school.’ It happens. We have had to turn back in some cases, families, or students, that lived in-catchment and get them into another secondary school,” said Strachan, adding that in those instances the schools keep track, and if space becomes available, those students are offered a transfer to their catchment.
Strachan couldn’t say how many children are on these “designated waitlists” but that the district would have a better idea in the spring, after registration for the 2019-20 school year is underway.
“There may be some on the list at Sullivan,” he noted, “because it’s been in that position for a while.”
Schools, he noted, could already be “collecting names of people who live in-catchment areas and don’t have an answer yet.”
Strachan explained there is a “hierarchy” that exists for student placement, district-wide.
“First, it’s students who are in our feeder elementary schools. We also give priority to siblings of existing students,” he said. “If you weren’t in our feeder schools, you’d be next after siblings (for in-catchment students). They’d get in after that.”
“This has always been the approach,” Strachan elaborated. “You have an hierarchy for admittance. Anybody can attend any school they want, subject to space, then there’s an hierachy. We’re just now in a position where we’re down to actually people in-catchment.”
Meantime, Tinney’s memo also revealed the long list of schols that are closed to out-of-catchment registration for the 2019-20 school year. In all there are 44 schools on the list, including the four high schools with the in-catchment “waitlists.”
The remaining 40 are elementary schools, and they are A.H.P Matthew, A.J. McLellan, Adams Road, Bayridge, Cambridge, Chimney Hill, Clayton, Coast Meridian, Coyote Creek, Erma Stephenson, Fraser Wood, Frost Road, George Greenaway, Goldstone Park, H.T. Thrift, Hall’s Prairie, Hazelgrove, Hillcrest, Hyland, K.B. Woodward, Katzie, Latimer Road, Morgan, North Ridge, Ocean Cliff, Old Yale Road, Pacific Heights, Panorama Park, Rosemary Heights, Semiahmoo Trail, Simon Cunningham, Sullivan, Sunnyside, Sunrise Ridge, Surrey Centre, T.E. Scott, Walnut Road, White Rock, William Watson and Woodward Hill.
“These schools are closed to out-of-catchment registrations (other than siblings) from the date of this memo, and no out-of-catchment waitlist will be maintained,” the memo stated.
Despite the situation, Strachan said the “encouraging thing is there have been more (school funding) announcements in the last year to 18 months.”
But, he noted “when you’re growing at 1,000 students a year, there’s a certain amount of capital you need just to keep up,” let alone catch up.
Tinney and other district staff made a presentation to Surrey council Monday night, outlining approved and recently completed projects in the district as well as providing an overview of its wish list in the most recent five-year capital plan.
A new high school opened to students in Clayton this fall, at the 1,500-seat Salish Secondary. And, a 200-seat addition at Newton’s Woodward Hill also opened in September.
The Ministry of Education has also approved the design and construction of 5,670 seats. District staff told council those are expected to be finished, and open to students, within two to three years.
Those seats are spread between several new projects: 605 seats are planned at a new Maddaugh Road Elementary in Clayton; 655 seats are planned at an unnamed Grandview area elementary; a 1,500 Grandview Heights Secondary; a Douglas area elementary (605 seats); and a 655-seat Regent Road Elementary in Clayton.
A variety of additions are also included in the 5,670 figured, including 200 seats at Panorama Park Elementary, 300 seats at Pacific Heights Elementary, 200 seats at Sullivan Elementary, 100 seats at Coyote Creek Elementary, 150 seats at Frost Road Elementary and 700 seats at Sullivan Heights Secondary.
Meantime, the district has also sent off its 2019-20 five-year capital plan to the province, asking for another 10,155 seats, spread amongst 36 projects.
A corporate report to Surrey council earlier this fall noted that 37,996 residential development units are expected to be built in Surrey and White Rock over the next 10 years. That number rises to 44,113, when including suites.
The district anticipates that growth will result in an additional 11,078 school-aged children enrolling over that time period. Currently, the district has an estimated 72,526 students.
As of Dec. 20, the district is operating with 325 portables.