Surrey School District's Discovery program forced to move
A specialized program for elementary students is being moved out of a North Surrey school at the end of the school year and a learning centre for teens is slated to move in by September.
Due to dwindling student numbers, the longstanding Discovery School, one of the Surrey School District's "choice" programs, will be housed in different, yet-to-be-determined elementary school in the fall.
Enrolment at Discovery is only about 57 students this year and has been slowly declining over the past several years. The building, near 131 Street and 109 Avenue, has the capacity for approximately 200.
Trustee Shawn Wilson said the board of education simply couldn't justify using the large space for such a small number of students.
"We should be respectful and responsible in terms of the resources of the school district ... and when you support a program that's not carrying itself, you're taking away from other resources," he said.
"To maintain a program that's not viable and not provide services that people want, you've really got to ask yourself if you're doing the right job as a trustee. I felt, as much as I would have liked to support the community that would like to see Discovery stay where it is, we just couldn't do it."
While some parents argued relocating the program will result in even fewer students as families won't want to make the move, school trustees are hopeful the opposite may occur and a fresh location will attract new interest.
It's uncertain where the Discovery program will be moved, but two schools that have space – Royal Heights and Prince Charles elementaries – are options. The school community, said Wilson, will decide within the month.
The transfer of the elementary program also helped the school district with another dilemma its been grappling with for months: finding much-needed and hard-to-find space in the north end of the city for a learning centre for teens who haven't found success in the mainstream school system.
There are currently five such learning centres in Surrey, with programs that feature flexible hours and small group instruction for Grade 10 to 12 students.
Beginning in September, the more than 200 students from the Newton Learning Centre near 64 Avenue and King George Boulevard, will move into the vacated Discovery building.
"A lot of the participants in learning centres come from that region," said Wilson. "That's the type of area that actually needs a learning centre."
As well, the Newton Learning Centre currently operates out of a leased facility near King George Boulevard and 64 Avenue, so moving into the district-owned Discovery school building will save Surrey thousands of dollars per year in lease payments.