British Columbia

Crowded Surrey schools expect 1,000 new students

Surrey schools are bracing for an influx of new students this fall — including about 300 Syrian refugees, according to the school district.

Approximately 300 are Syrian refugees, says district official

Surrey is expecting 1,000 new students this year, including about 300 Syrian refugees, according to the district. (CBC)

Surrey schools are bracing for an influx of about 1,000 new students this fall, including about 300 Syrian refugees, according to the school district. 

Rapid expansion of the Vancouver-area city means schools across the district are filled to capacity and many will need to use portables, said district spokesman Doug Strachan.

Surrey's population rose by 100,000 between 2005 and 2015 and it's projected to increase by another 300,000 in the next three decades.

Strachan said the increase in students this year is similar to last year. "It's not like it's unusual or unique by any stretch," he said.

An art class at the Surrey Schools English Language Learner Welcome Centre, where refugee students are assessed when they first arrive in the district. (Surrey ELL Welcome Centre)

"We're chasing more than we're getting ahead of the growth," he said. "We're always playing catch up."

In May, the B.C. government said it would spend nearly $74.2 million to create about 2,700 new spaces for students in Surrey in response to growing concerns about overcrowding and overuse of school portables.

Additions built on 3 schools

​Strachan said three elementary schools have built additions, which should alleviate some of the crowding, and a new secondary school will open in September 2018.

The district has about 275 portable classrooms that it can move where needed.

"We continue to be pretty full as a district," Strachan said.

The refugee families can receive support from Surrey's welcome centre for immigrants.

"We're going to make it work," Strachan said. "The students will get an education one way or another."

All told, enrolment in Surrey school is expected to be 71,000 this year, Strachan said.

B.C. government is creating about 2,700 new spaces for students in Surrey in response to growing concerns about overcrowding at schools. Fleetwood Elementary, above, was closed in 2009 because of its inappropriate commercial zone location. (Waferboard/Flickr)

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