British Columbia

Surrey School Board chair wants a system overhaul to address overcrowding

The chair of the Surrey School Board says a better planning process is needed to deal with the city’s overcrowded classrooms.

Board Chair Shawn Wilson says Surrey needs to plan for schools before they’re needed, not after

Some parents believe the city should freeze new development until new schools are built. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

The chair of the Surrey School Board says a better planning process is needed to deal with the city's overcrowded classrooms.

About 7,000 students in the district learn in portables and schools like Earl Marriott Secondary and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary are over capacity.

"By trying to look at it globally, enrolment at B.C. school districts is declining," said Shawn Wilson.

"Well, [that] isn't [Surrey] and that one is growing tremendously and I think we need recognition of that. I think the funding formula needs recognition of that."

After a summer of concern leading up to the beginning of the school year, the Surrey School District says 2017 is right on track with previous years. (CBC)

Provincial funding for new schools is doled out based on enrolment numbers but projected growth isn't considered.

Premier Christy Clark, who recently announced the creation of 2,700 new classroom spaces in Surrey, said she is looking at ways to improve the system.

That's welcome news in Surrey, which takes in about 800 new residents a month.

Education activist Maria Myers said part of the problem is developers are building new townhomes and condo towers in neighbourhoods where the schools are already overflowing.

"I can go to my school secretary tomorrow and ask her how many students we have and I can go the next week and it will be a completely bigger number."

Surrey School Board Chair Shawn Wilson says a new system is needed to deal with overcrowded classrooms in Surrey. (Surreyschools.ca)

Working together

Wilson said it is going to take a collaborative effort from the city, province and education community to come up with a solution.

"I'd like to see a working committee where our planning staff, perhaps an assistant superintendent, maybe a couple of city councillors and also some people from the capital department of the provincial government working together."

"It would be to look out at the planning and get a sense of the developments that are already coming to be able to plan and possibly fund these schools long before we really need them. That's what really has to be done."

Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School in Surrey was built to accommodate 1,400 students but currently has 2,100 students enrolled. (Surreyschools.ca)

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