NDP likely can't meet timeline to reduce portables in Surrey
Premier John Horgan says Supreme Court ruling on class sizes created an unexpected challenge
Premier John Horgan says the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling on class sizes and composition in B.C. is making it difficult for his government to make good on one of its key election promises.
Just before the 2016-2017 school year began, Horgan stood in front of Katzie Elementary in Clayton Heights and pledged to eliminate portables in the Surrey School District over four years.
He also vowed to cut the number of portables in the district in half over his first two years in office.
Horgan now says it's unlikely he'll meet those timelines, because the country's highest court ruled class sizes in B.C. must be restored to 2002 levels.
"We had not contemplated when we made the commitment, the Supreme Court ruling throwing out 16 years of B.C. Liberal policy," Horgan said.
"That's going to take us a bit more time."
He says his government is doing everything in its power to get students out of portables and into classrooms as quickly as possible.
"We've struck a committee right here in Surrey with MLAs, government, the city and the school district to make sure we can fast track school construction," he said.
Surrey School District communications manager Doug Strachan says the district started hiring teachers and ordering portables immediately after the court ruling came down in November, 2016.
He says the district now has about 325 portables, which is up from about 270 last year.
"We had to bring in 50 more portables and we've been frantically installing through the summer," he said.
"There's still I think about 10 portables that we're still to take delivery of today and into the month but we have contingencies for those specific schools. We expect we'll be good by the end of the month."
Strachan says they have a teacher for every classroom, but they're still looking to hire specialty instructors and counsellors.
They also need more teachers on call for the district.
Kendalle Zenyk — whose five year old daughter attends first grade at Katzie Elementary — says smaller class sizes should be a bigger priority than portables.
"I've seen they put more portables up this year, so it's very full," said Kendalle Zenyk, whose five year old daughter goes to Grade 1 at Katzie.
"I think the smaller classes will definitely help. I'm glad that they are smaller and that helps [my daughter] get the attention she needs."