Surrey School survey ideas on dealing with overcrowding raises eyebrows

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Solution to surrey’s growing school population is more schools – not shifts, hybrid models, or busing out of local catchment areas — Councillor Linda Annis

Recently Surrey School District launched an online survey to consult parents about strategies that the district can use to increase school capacities.

While it sounds optimistic to solve the increasing population in Surrey schools, the options in the survey are drastic.

Ideas include fully online or hybrid classes for secondary students, moving to a trimester system or even extending school days or dividing them into shifts, with some students starting in the early morning and others finishing in the late evening.

The proposals come as the district faces an enrolment crisis. Surrey Schools welcomed more than 2,400 new students in the last two years – compared with 800 students per year historically – a 200% increase in new student enrolment. This rate of increase is not sustainable as the current number of schools in the district cannot accommodate the rapidly growing student body.

According to Surrey School District, “This enrolment growth continues to significantly outpace the district’s only source of funding from the province, placing unprecedented pressure on the district and creating challenges with respect to capacity, available space, and staffing. As a result, the district must consider a number of mitigation strategies aimed at optimizing school space and safeguarding the continued delivery of high-quality education. Potential strategies being considered include tri-semester schooling, school “shifts,” busing students to out-of-catchment schools, and hybrid online learning models.”

Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis says  that asking parents to weigh in on options such as tri-semester schooling, hybrid online learning, and busing children to out-of-catchment schools reinforces just how bad the situation has become in our city. “It’s clear that the situation has gone far beyond just adding ever-increasing numbers of portables. It has become more serious each school year. The province has put our school board, and our city and its families in a precarious position when it comes to educating our city’s students,” she said.

“Being forced to look at different education options isn’t the answer to our growing school population, only new schools can solve the issue. The province, city and school board must work faster and harder to build new schools, and it can be done if the province is serious about education in its largest school district. If the provincial government wants to build new schools faster it can be done, but the willpower has to be there. From the city’s perspective we should be pushing our local MLAs to demand that more schools be funded immediately and built faster, and that includes being more creative about planning and construction. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Annis said the growing school population has been an issue for years, with “temporary portables” as the short-term remedy, and the province’s recent push for more housing will only stretch overworked infrastructure even more.

“Portables have become permanent and now even they cannot keep up,” said Annis. “The idea that we have to canvas parents now about looking at alternatives to neighbourhood schools speaks volumes and emphasizes just how big the problem really is. Second best should not be an acceptable education option for our city and its families, and our city and its taxpayers need to speak up. The need for new schools has been obvious for years, but it has been neglected and ignored, and now we are suffering the consequences of years of inaction. The fact is the provincial government is not keeping up when it comes to building schools in our city.”