Surrey schools overflowing as Vancouver schools face closures

While some Vancouver schools face declining enrolment and potential closures, schools in Surrey, B.C., are struggling to keep up with demand.

The school district can barely keep up with demand for new schools

New schools are being built in Surrey, B.C., to accommodate the influx of students. (CBC)

While some Vancouver schools face declining enrolment and potential closures, schools in Surrey, B.C., are struggling to keep up with demand.

On Monday, the Vancouver School Board voted to potentially close up to 13 schools so it can get much-needed seismic upgrades across the district. 

But students keep on flowing into Surrey. Adams Road Elementary is among the district's newest schools; even though it's only four years old, it's already overflowing. 

"The challenge is keeping up with the growth that's coming into the district," said Surrey school district spokesman Doug Stachan. 

Classrooms overflowing

Surrey is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. Housing construction is expected to give Surrey 33,000 new residential units over the next decade — and more than 6,500 new students. 

Ten new classrooms are under construction for Adams Road Elementary in the next year. Classroom additions are also in the works at other schools in Surrey. 

Across the district, approximately 300 portables are in use. When school started last September, there were over 900 additional students enrolled — enough to fill two new elementary schools.

Boundaries or catchment areas have been changed to manage the growth in elementary schools, but Strachan said the situation is tricky in secondary schools.

"We've stretched the school day to distribute the students over a greater period of the day in order to keep the hallways and the common areas a little less congested," he said.

Doug Strachan with the Surrey School Board says the district is struggling to keep up with demand. (CBC)

New schools coming

Shovels were finally in the ground for a new high school in the Clayton North neighbourhood earlier this month. It should be ready by spring 2018. It's expected to reduce pressure at Clayton Heights Secondary and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary. 

But the school district still has three new schools and three expansions on its wishlist — no easy feat considering the approximate price tag on a new elementary school is $15 million or $40 million for a new secondary school

And that's just for construction, over and above the cost of land. Strachan said the road to funding from the provincial government is so long, the district has taken matters into its own hands.

"Our board has taken the extraordinary step, in fact just recently, again to pay out of its own budget to have architects draw up drawings so that we're ready to go when we get the funding," said Strachan.

According to the city's website, Surrey currently has 99 elementary schools, 25 secondary schools, and 23 independent schools across the district.

With files from Belle Puri

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