Surrey’s growth puts pressure on schools

Coast Meridian Elementary in Fleetwood, Surrey, is one of many schools that uses portables.

Portables have become the norm for 7,000 students in fast-growing Surrey neighbourhoods

The Surrey school board has asked city council to stall development in popular areas until it can build new schools to accommodate the rapid influx of students.
With a thousand new residents moving in every month, Surrey has seen a residential construction boom which has far outpaced the expansion of schools. Currently, the district has about 275 portables in which 7,000 students attend classes. “That number is bigger than 35 school districts in B.C.,” says trustee Laurae McNally. “So we desperately need some help.”

Every fall, the school district is required to give the ministry of education a request for capital needs. McNally says that each of the past three years the school district has requested new capacity, both in school additions and new buildings. These requests were not approved. “We’ve been letting the government know our needs, but they hold the purse strings,” she says. “For quite awhile they’ve been saying that funding is ‘imminent.’”
The school district is forecasting an additional 1,000 students for the 2016-2017 school year. As a desperate measure, the trustees unanimously passed a motion asking city council to suspend all new development approvals in the Clayton, Grandview/South Surrey and South Newton.
Education Minister Mike Bernier issued a statement about the school board’s plea for funding, saying that Surrey and other districts experiencing growth will be “a priority” for future capital investments.

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