While the province was eager to announce that three Surrey elementary schools will be getting custom-made prefabricated modules to replace portable classrooms on site, some trustees were less than happy about the “fancy portables.”
On Tuesday (Nov. 14) afternoon, Education Minister Rachna Singh made the announcement at Woodland Park Elementary, regarding Lena Shaw, Walnut Road and Woodland Park Elementary schools.
The three schools will all be getting the prefabricated modules by the beginning of next school year at the earliest, with Lena Shaw getting eight more classrooms, Walnut Road getting 12 and Woodland Park getting 16.
“As more families make Surrey their home, we are finding creative solutions to deliver more classrooms as quickly as possible,” Singh said.
The $54-million project consists of two-storey modules, which will add a total of 36 new classrooms on the sites’ 875 total students. Singh said that the new modules will last for “decades.”
“This funding is an important investment in our schools, in our students and in our community,” said board chair Laurie Larsen.
“At a school like Walnut Road, it will give them back their soccer field and their playfield that they haven’t been able to use for a couple of years.”
Larsen adds that the modules are fully accessible while being two-tier, have student and staff washrooms, and will free up play-area space at all of the three sites.
But when the initial announcement of the prefabricated modules being added to the schools came to the board at last month’s Oct. 18 meeting, some trustees raised concerns.
Trustee Terry Allen in particular said that he really wanted to see additional space for schools be attached to the school, and asked capital projects director Dave Riley if that could be possible.
“We are moving very quickly to get these modules installed for September in order to alleviate the portables on those sites and that does require us to have them as stand-alone complexes,” Riley said.
“We will have them as close as practical to the school and located as close as practical to an exit, but with the time allowed prior to next September, we are not able to have them as actually adjoined modules.”
Although understanding of Riley’s position, Allen said he wishes that in future years, the additions would be attached to the school.
“The whole idea of modules is to do away with, or supposedly do away with portables, correct?” Allen continued.
“If there’s still an independent building to the main school then they’re just a fancy portable in my opinion… it doesn’t seem to be much better than what we’ve got.”
Trustee Laurae McNally also did not seem as pleased with the news, asking “Will these schools ever see an attached addition to them or are these forever?”
While Riley could not give an answer to McNally’s question, Minister Singh said the prefabricated modules are a unique route the ministry is trying, to solve the portable problem in Surrey.