Surrey public schools get $217M to curtail chronic overcrowding
Province announces new funding for biggest and fastest growing school district in B.C.
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."
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.
"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.
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.