More students in Surrey will be learning in portablesdue to Significantly BehindCapital Project Investment

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At the April 19, 2023 Surrey Board of Education meeting, trustees unanimously agreed that provincial investments into capital projects for the Surrey School District have fallen significantly behind and urgent action is needed from the Ministry of Education and Child Care.

On April 25, the board sent a letter to Minister of Education and Child Care Rachna Singh, as well as to all Surrey and White Rock MLA’s, highlighting the dire situation the school district faces as school enrolment far outpaces available school space.

Continually finding costly and short-term solutions, such adding portables to school sites, is increasingly becoming a challenge, says the board, and increased provincial funding is critical. The list of schools needing additions and the communities requiring new schools is only going to continue to grow.

“This past September alone we saw more than 2,200 new students enrolling in the district, bringing our student population to over 78,000. Based on population estimates from the provincial government, the City of Surrey and the district, it is clear that enrolment will continue increasing at a rapid pace in almost every school community in our district,” the letter mentioned.

Explaining further about the portables, the letter mentioned, “We have just begun an RFP process to purchase 30 new portables for September 2024. We are also preparing to move 39 portables from one site to another to manage projected enrolment growth for the 2023/24 school year. Moving these portables is creating a further strain on our already stretched operating budget, with a cost of approximately $4.8 million dollars. We’re finding ways to ensure our students continue to have safe and engaging learning environments, but the bottom line is that more and more students in our district will be learning in portables, and communal school spaces such as gyms and libraries will be shared by a greater number of students, affecting the time allotted to each class. And as more portables are added to already limited outdoor spaces, elementary play areas are being affected and our staff and secondary students are having to park on residential streets, which comes with its own challenges.”

According to the board members they have tried to advocate for funding privately and held meetings with BC’s education minister, the Ministry, and local MLAs, including Minister Ralston, Minister Bains and Minister Brar. “Unfortunately, these meetings have not resulted in sufficient funding to meet the level of growth we are experiencing. In addition, we are still waiting for approvals through internal provincial government processes for other projects, including additions to Tamanawis Secondary and Guilford Park Secondary,” said the letter.

The board says that continually finding costly short-term solutions to address these issues is becoming a challenge, and our board may have to make some very difficult decisions about staffing and programs and services, like moving or even eliminating our Programs of Choice, including French immersion, EKOlogy and the Intensive Fine Arts Academy.