Parents of South Surrey’s Pacific Heights Elementary expressed frustration Wednesday, following unexpected news of a change to the high school their Grade 6 and 7 students will be feeding into.
The switch to Elgin Park Secondary from Earl Marriott Secondary – described by the school district as “the only option” to mitigate over-capacity pressures at EMS until the new Grandview Heights Secondary can be built – came during a meeting scheduled by the district just prior to spring break.
Kul Chong told Peace Arch News Wednesday that parents had expected to hear an update on the construction of the new high school, which was among four school projects announced last fall to have been delayed by too-high bids.
“Instead, they dropped this bomb on the parents,” said Chong.
The decision, which Chong said parents were not consulted on, means – among other things – that some parents are faced with a choice of whether to send their child to the high school an older sibling is at, or to the school where all their friends are. Either way, factoring in the move to the new high school, the students will be displaced twice, she said.
“There’s a lot of impacted families. A lot of parents were upset yesterday.”
An April 2 letter to parents from Lynda Reeve, assistant superintendent for South Surrey/White Rock, explains that current Grade 7 students will now go to Elgin for Grades 8 and 9, while the current Grade 6s will be at Elgin for Grade 8.
It’s anticipated to be a two-year arrangement, with the students expected to transfer to the new high school in September 2021, Reeve states. Transportation in the meantime will be provided by the district at no cost to affected families.
A key factor in choosing Pacific Heights classes for the shift was the relatively low impact, district spokesman Doug Strachan told PAN.
“There’s no other alternative that wouldn’t involve greater impact on greater number of students and families. ”
Reeve also notes that Elgin is the only secondary school in South Surrey with space for new students, as EMS and Semiahmoo “are far beyond capacity.”
Parent Tracy Silvester said her concerns include how the greater distance to Elgin will impact her eldest son’s ability to care for his younger sibling after school.
She also questioned how displacing 40 students next year could have any significant impact on overcrowding at EMS.
Strachan said feedback and discussion will be welcome at a second meeting on the issue, set for Tuesday evening (April 9) at the 17148 26 Ave. school.
Chong predicted it “will be packed.”
And, “there’s going to be push-back,” she said.