Surrey city Councillor Linda Annis is calling for a zero-tolerance policy on building more school portables in Surrey, which she says has become the portable capital of B.C.
She was responding to a corporate report before council at its last meeting entitled Surrey School District Eligible School Sites Proposal 2021-2022 Capital Plan by Jean Lamontagne, Surrey’s general manager of planning and development, that indicates 54,270 residential units are estimated to be developed in Surrey and White Rock over the next decade – that’s 68,198 units including secondary suites – resulting in an increase of 14,283 school-aged children in the district over that time.
This, the report says, will require five new elementary schools and two new secondary schools to be built, as well as the expansion of an elementary school. Based on current serviced land prices, this will cost an estimated $187,455,000.
Just three months ago the Now-Leader published a story that the school district was hoping to see 13 new schools built within the next decade as part of its $1.3 billion capital place request to the province.
Council was asked to endorse “in principle” the plan as outlined in Lamontagne’s report. Annis did not, but the rest of council did.
“I don’t think that estimate’s realistic,” Annis said of the projection for new students. “It further is seven we’re only going to have seven new schools to be constructed over the next ten years, and one expansion.
“What I see from this is just more and more portables. Unfortunately and regrettably we’re already kind of the portable capital of British Columbia when it comes to schools and I think we have to come down to a zero tolerance on our portables, we have far, far too many. Surrey families are paying taxes and their kids shouldn’t be in portables.”
Mayor Doug McCallum replied that the provincial government has been “as cooperative as I’ve ever seen in my political career” and has built “many” schools.
“All you need to do is to drive around Surrey and look at all the school construction and extensions that are happening just in the last year,” he said. “The ministry has continued on this year.”
He noted there will be a meeting between the school district, city and provincial government in three weeks.
“I think we’re doing exceptional at this stage,” he said. “And I don’t want the public to think that we have got our foot off the gas. Yes, we do need to build schools and I can tell you in already talking to the ministry they’re going to be cooperative with us and they’re going to continue, as they did last year, building schools and adding extensions on to it.”
Councillor Allison Patton said she’s “very proud” of the work that’s been done. Councillor Laurie Guerra echoed that.
“The school board is elected separately from city council and I at this point, I thought that the meetings that we’ve had in the last two years have been very, very productive,” Guerra said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth, I’ve seen a lot of schools being built. I’ve been to many openings of the new schools.”
“We do have a lot of growth, though, and I think that we really need to stress that when we meet up with the new minister.”