Surrey school District welcomes nearly 80,000 Students amidst portable crisis

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As another school year begins, the Surrey School District said that it is once again anticipating considerable student population growth, with nearly 80,000 students expected in 2023-24.
With 103 elementary schools, 21 secondary schools, five learning centres and one online school, Surrey Schools is the largest and fastest growing school district in British Columbia. More than 2,500 new students are expected to start at Surrey and White Rock schools this September, increasing the district’s overall enrolment to almost 80,000 from last year’s total of 77,300.
Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education, said, “Our district continues to grow rapidly, and advocating for additional school and classroom space remains a top priority for our board.”
The district informed that 2023-24 school year will see the opening of a new addition to École K.B. Woodward Elementary, located at 13130 106 Ave. The eight-classroom expansion creates 240 new student spaces, increasing the school’s capacity to 730 students and reducing the need for portables.
The School District also informed that throughout the school year, construction will continue on Ta’talu Elementary (1970 165A St.), a new school that will create 655 spaces for kindergarten to Grade 7 students. 
But these additions to the schools are being called as “mere drops in the bucket,” by the opposition since Surrey Schools are suffering from overcrowding.

“Officials in my community, from the Surrey School Board to the city council, have consistently highlighted the dire situation of overcrowded schools in Surrey. We’ve seen the NDP publicly celebrate mere drops in the bucket, but nothing the NDP has done so far has come close to accommodating Surrey’s current and future needs. It’s well past time for David Eby and the NDP to follow through on their promise,” said Surrey South MLA Elenore Sturko, Shadow Minister for Education.
“At the end of the last school year, Surrey School District was using 310 portables. As of today, that number has risen to 335 and, based on further projections, will increase again the following year,” she said.

In May 2023 the city of Surrey Council had voted to declare the state of school infrastructure a crisis due to population growth in Surrey outpacing the available spaces in school.
The city and the board felt that Provincial government’s strategy to add portables to manage population growth in schools is not only temporary but expensive and adversely impacting other school activities.
“The state of school infrastructure in Surrey has reached a crisis level,” said Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said at that time. “The pressure to create more housing cannot be done in isolation. Core infrastructure such as schools must be built in lock step with new housing. It’s shocking to hear that by September 2024, we may have nearly 400 portables across our city.”

The city stated that to manage growth, the district is utilizing portables however this temporary strategy comes with challenges, including finding outdoor space for the structures, as well as the significant budget pressure they present as the district must pay for the cost of purchasing and moving portables from its operating budget. The district is currently utilizing 361 portables (300 for enrolling classes) and will be moving over 56 this summer to accommodate growth in various areas throughout the city for a cost of over $7.2  million. The district will also be purchasing 30 additional portables for the next school year.