British Columbia

NDP promises to rid Surrey schools of portables within 4 years

In a bid to fix Surrey's overcrowded education system, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan says he will do away with all of the portables at Surrey schools within the next four years, if his party is elected.

If elected, Leader John Horgan says NDP would also overhaul 'flawed' funding formula

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan promised to make education a defining issue in the 2017 provincial election. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan is keen to make education a campaign issue in the upcoming provincial election, saying he will do away with all of the portables at Surrey schools within the next four years, if his party is elected.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Horgan said Surrey's overabundance of portables is indicative of a lack of investment in education infrastructure in a city that is currently the fastest growing municipality in the province.

Horgan called on Premier Christy Clark to put money from its recently established "rainy day fund" toward the construction of the new schools he says the city desperately needs.

"Parents, teachers, trustees — they understand that there's a crisis here, and the premier's sitting on $100 million that could be going right now into solving this problem," Horgan said.

Cindy Dalglish says increased reliance on portables is putting unsustainable stress on Surrey's education infrastructure. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

Funding formula broken, Horgan says

Horgan said portables result in worse education for students than permanent classrooms due to a lack of proper integration with the rest of the school.

"If you're stuck in a portable all day long, you're not interacting with other kids and other cohorts, older and younger," he said. "You're not learning the empathy that you need to interact in communities."

The sentiment was echoed by Surrey parent Cindy Dalglish, whose oldest child attends Ecole Woodward Hill.

Dalglish said school facilities such as gyms and washrooms are built with the school's permanent capacity in mind, so those facilities end up operating beyond the capacity they were designed for.

Dalglish pointed out that, rather than being funded by a school's capital budget, portables are paid for from the operating budget.

"The portables are taking away the necessary education assistance that we need — the resources, the basketballs, the teachers — that the school needs, that the students need to be successful," she said.

NDP to make education a campaign issue

Horgan indicated that this is just the first of many education-related salvos to be fired in the lead-up to the 2017 election.

"We're going to be talking about education every day of that campaign," he said. "I challenge the premier to do the same thing."

In addition to committing to build the infrastructure required to do away with the portables, Horgan also promised to fix the formula used to determine where and when new schools are built.

Horgan said the current formula is broken and does not allow for schools to be built fast enough to keep pace with population growth.

Horgan said specifics of how he believes the formula should be amended would be revealed as part of the NDP's campaign platform closer to the election.

With files from Jesse Johnston.