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Surrey school district ‘optimistic’ Sullivan Heights addition will be ready by the fall

The 700-seat addition was supposed to be completed by fall of 2021
Crews work on the 700-seat, 29-classroom addition at Sullivan Heights Secondary on May 13, 2022. The expansion is set to open a year late. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

It was nearly four years ago the Ministry of Education announced a 700-seat addition at Sullivan Heights Secondary, with an expected completion in the fall of 2021.

But during the board of education’s May 2022 meeting, the district’s director of capital projects is “optimistic” the addition will be ready by fall of 2022.

Dave Riley gives updates on capital projects at the monthly meetings, and during the May 11 meeting he said “we are still optimistic” Sullivan Heights Secondary will be ready for students come September.

But he added “much work remains.”

In a statement from the district, it notes the contract for the project at the high school was awarded on March 4, 2020.

“At that time, we anticipated having students in those classrooms by November 2021. This project did experience delays due to COVID-19, supply chain and the floods in Chilliwack. And unfortunately this project was impacted by these factors more so than other projects in our district,” notes the statement.

“These delays have been difficult and frustrating, particularly for our staff and students at Sullivan Heights. They’ve been patiently waiting for this project to be completed and have continued to work and learn, despite all of the disruptions that an active construction site brings.”

Trustee Terry Allen, however, said it was “somewhat of a concern” that the contractor for Morgan Elementary is the same as Sullivan Heights.

“Can you tell me how that happened, unless it’s back to the old system of the lowest bid gets the contract because my experience, and certainly Trustee McNally’s experience, and … your experience has not exactly been a pleasant experience as far as that contractor’s work, certainly on Sullivan Heights,” Allen said to Riley.

Alled added students have not been moved into the facility they should have been in more than six months ago.

Riley said the contract was awarded to the company “before the full extent of issues” at Sullivan Heights “were apparent.”

“Certainly we did have some indication at that time that there was issues but nothing to the extent of where things have gone since. Secondly, we do award to the lowest bidder unless there are extenuating circumstances and in this case the lowest bidder was substantially lower than the next lowest,” explained Riley.

“Knowing the performance issues at Sullivan Secondary, we have been on the team at Morgan from as soon as we could and we’ve been very, very carefully monitoring the progress at that site.”

Trustee and board chair Laurie Larsen said the contractor may be “more in line now with some of the local plumbers and electricians,” adding the workers were “coming from out of B.C. before.”

It was in June 0f 2018, then-education minister Rob Fleming announced the 29-classroom, 700-seat addition. By the fall, Sullivan Heights was the district’s most overcrowded school at 153.4 per cent.

READ ALSO: How teens grapple with growth at Surrey’s most crowded high school, June 11, 2019

READ ALSO: Surrey’s Sullivan Heights Secondary getting 700-seat addition, June 21, 2018

The expansion also includes a new gym, and a “bridge connection” between the new building and the existing building, to provide a shared main entry and administration space.

At the time, the school had 14 portables in use on site and the ministry said the portables would be removed when the project is completed.

Currently, Sullivan Heights has a capacity of 1,000 and in October of 2021 there were 1,646 students enrolled at the high school.

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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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