The provincial government announced it is directing $217 million dollars towards the construction of 5,200 new student seats in Surrey over the next three years.

Surrey School District board chairperson Shawn Wilson welcomed the announcement, saying in a release that it was important "to break the pattern of perpetual pursuit of classroom spaces."

Overcrowded-Schools

A lawn sign highlights the frustration around school overcrowding felt by some parents and students in Surrey. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Overcrowding at Surrey schools is a long-standing issue. Last year the problem became so acute one Surrey school trustee asked the city to temporarily halt all development until the city received a commitment from the government to address the problem.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner also made a public plea to the provincial government, which is responsible for education and schools.

"We need to move from the current model of waiting for [student] demand to arrive,"  Hepner told CBC News.

Surrey school portables

Approximately 275 portable classrooms are being used in Surrey to deal with school overcrowding. At some schools, the portables have been in use for decades. (Laila Yule)

"That's what creates the overcrowding conditions. Before any new school can be built it has to be overcrowded and it has to be consistently overcrowded."

Surrey's student population has been growing at a rate of about 1,000 new students per year.

Last school year, the district was using approximately 275 portable classrooms to try to deal with the overcrowding. One school, Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, was operating at 150 per cent capacity, accommodating 2,100 students instead of the 1,400 it was built for.

Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School, Surrey

Lord Tweedsmuir was built to accommodate 1,400 students but had a student population of 2,100 last school year. (www.surreyschools.ca)

According to a press release, the first priority around Thursday's announcement will be to "identify new schools or school expansions as quickly as possible so the proposals can be brought forward for provincial approval.

"That planning will involve defining the size of projects, as well as timing new school development to align with residential development."

With over 71,000 students, Surrey is the largest school district in B.C.