Surrey Council Declares a School Infrastructure ‘Crisis’
Surrey Council has voted to declare the state of school infrastructure a crisis that is impacting the delivery of education that children need and deserve.
Surrey, B.C. – Surrey Council has voted to declare the state of school infrastructure a crisis that is impacting the delivery of education that children need and deserve. During the Regular Council Meeting Monday, Council directed staff to organize a meeting between the City, Surrey School District, the Minister of Housing and Minister of Education and Child Care to “remediate this crisis situation immediately.”
"The state of school infrastructure in Surrey has reached a crisis level,” said Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke. “The pressure to create more housing cannot be done in isolation. Core infrastructure such as schools must be built in lock step with new housing. It’s shocking to hear that by September 2024, we may have nearly 400 portables across our city. I know the Board of Education has continually advocated for funding from the Province, but we’re not seeing the action that our community so desperately needs. We know that without rapid investment, our schools are facing a dire situation. We need action and investment in building more schools in Surrey now.”
Surrey School District saw more than 2,200 new students enroll this past September, bringing the student population to over 78,000. Based on population estimates, enrolment is projected to continue increasing at a rapid pace in almost every community. This is concerning as many of Surrey’s schools are already operating far over capacity as population growth continues to outpace available space.
“We appreciate the support from the Mayor and Councillors in advocating for our district,” said Gary Tymoschuk, Vice-Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. “We are all committed to ensuring that every student in our district has access to an engaging and quality learning environment in their neighborhood. Over the past several years, our school district has been facing a significant increase in student enrollment resulting in an urgent need for more classroom space. Portables are a short-term solution to quickly accommodate our growing student population, but this is not a sustainable solution due to cost and space limitations. We need new schools and additions to existing sites to accommodate this rapid growth, and we look forward to working with the province and the city to address this growth.”
To manage growth, the district is utilizing portables however this temporary strategy comes with challenges, including finding outdoor space for the structures, as well as the significant budget pressure they present as the district must pay for the cost of purchasing and moving portables from its operating budget. The district is currently utilizing 361 portables (300 for enrolling classes) and will be moving over 56 this summer to accommodate growth in various areas throughout the city for a cost of over $7.2 million. The district will also be purchasing 30 additional portables for the next school year.
This is money that the district could utilize in other ways that can help support the students in Surrey to thrive. Last summer, the district submitted its annual capital submission to the Ministry of Education and Child Care outlining additional projects that are a priority to address capacity needs. This spring, the district received approval on two additions, creating 700 new seats but this is far less than what is needed. Last week, the School District approved its the 2024/25 capital plan submission to the Province. This will be submitted to the Ministry of Education and Childcare in the coming weeks.