Sunnyside Elementary principal Brad Helland is anxious and excited as the start of school looms

Sunnyside Elementary principal Brad Helland is anxious and excited as the start of school looms

A move to the Sunnyside of the street

The new Sunnyside Elementary, set to open in South Surrey Sept. 3, is 'one-of-a-kind,' officials say.

The principal of Surrey’s newest school doesn’t hesitate when asked what he likes best about the all-but-finished Sunnyside Elementary replacement.

“I just can’t get past that gym,” Brad Helland beamed Wednesday, during a tour of the 5,000-square-metre school, at 2828 159 St., built to accommodate 450 students.

“When I walked in and saw that gym, I just about drooled.”

The high-ceilinged, maple-floored gymnasium is among several notable attributes of the school, which site superintendent Alan McNee, of Bouygues Building Canada, described as a one-of-a-kind.

“You’ll never see another one of these,” said McNee, citing a design customized to fit within a narrow, sloped lot.

And while it’s been just over a year in the making – work on the $12.8 million school began only last summer – getting to that crucial starting point took far longer.

Replacing the former Sunnyside Elementary, at 15250 28 Ave., received a green light from the provincial government in the 2005-2006 school year. But construction was delayed when the district was told to build the school as a Neighbourhood Learning Centre, and again, when the district was waiting for the OK from the province.

The new school was given the final go-ahead in January 2012, and crews started on the site in mid-June of 2012.

Since then, the project has been proceeding on a “very, very, very tight timeline,” said McNee, noting his own daughter will be among the more than 300 students who will be welcomed through the school’s doors when it opens on Sept. 3.

While it will be ready for occupancy, some minor details will still be being worked on.

“It’s ready,” Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan said Tuesday.

“There’s still going to be finish work being done. There’ll be some inconveniences and some things still getting into place, but that’ll be over quite quickly.”

In addition to the gymnasium, Helland highlighted the extensive use of natural lighting – for example, the entire west wall of the library is windows – and wood throughout the school.

Other attributes include the ability to control the temperature of individual classrooms; open-concept washrooms (the boys and girls will share sink space); exterior doors to all of the primary classrooms; and plenty of outdoor gathering spaces, including an area that could easily be used as an amphitheatre for band concerts.

Helland said Sunnyside is the first school he has opened as a principal, a role he has held in Surrey for the past 2½ years. Being at the helm during such a project is “an honour,” he said.

He acknowledged there will be “growing pains” as students and staff “make the building ours.”

Helland noted the most important finishing touches for the school arrive Sept. 3.

“A school’s not a school till the kids are here,” he said.

Registration for students new to the school opens Friday (Aug. 23) at 9:30 a.m. To help streamline the process, Helland asks that parents planning to sign their children up access the necessary forms from the school’s website ( before arriving at the school.

District-wide, Strachan said not much change is anticipated in the student population this year, with total enrolment at about 70,100.

“There’s a projected increase of about 30 students,” he said.


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