Surrey schools in crisis as more portables are ordered and enrolment swells
Ten per cent of Surrey's students will be learning in portables when class returns in September, and with 1,000 new student enrolments year-after-year, many parents are saying the problem has become unmanageable.
"We truly are in a crisis," said Surrey District Parents Advisory Council president Rina Diaz. "New families are going to keep coming here. We need more schools, plain and simple," she said.
To deal with chronic overcrowding in the Surrey school system, she says, 28 new portables will be brought in for the beginning of the school year, bringing the total to 361 portables.
The problem with student population growth — which the district estimates at 74,000 students — extends beyond portables and into the entire school system, according to the president of the Surrey Teachers Association.
Music rooms, gyms, libraries and computer labs have all been converted to classrooms in some schools in Surrey.
"It's difficult to over-estimate the impact of growing by 1,000 to 1,200 students every single year," said Matt Westphal, president of the Surrey Teachers Association.
B.C's Ministry of Education declined an interview request but in a statement said, since September 2017, it has approved $226.7 million for 2,510 new student spaces, seismic upgrades and land purchases for future schools in Surrey.
The ministry adds there are 12 approved projects underway with approximately 9,450 new student seats coming to Surrey.
"When those projects are ready for occupancy — most of them in 2021 — I think you'll see a significant drop in portables," said Doug Strachan, spokesperson with the Surrey School District.
Still not enough
Westphal argues one elementary school would have to be built every year and a new secondary school every two to three years to keep up with the ongoing demand.
In the meantime, he suggests more portables.
"I hate to say that, but rather than kick a music teacher out of their class, I would rather see more portables."