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Concerns over slow Surrey school construction

Months after funding announced by provincial government, building hasn't begun.
There are about 250 portables being used as classrooms in Surrey currently. While funding was announced last October for school expansion projects

A group of Surrey school advocates is wondering what's holding up construction of new space in the school district.

While capital funding was announced with great fanfare three-and-a-half months ago by Premier Christy Clark, shovels have yet to break ground, says the Ad Hoc Committee Advocating for Surrey Schools in its latest bulletin.

The group, made up of representatives from the city, business community, teachers union, CUPE, parents advisory councils and students, says it's concerned about the length of time involved in the "back and forth" communications between the school district and Ministry of Education. The committee has asked Education Minister George Abbott and Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon to look into the capital project process and "its effectiveness/appropriateness in addressing the urgent needs of our growing school district.

It was last Halloween when the province announced funding for 19 school building projects – eight of them in Surrey – worth $300 million.

Surrey's included expansions at two crowded high schools: Fraser Heights Secondary, which has 16 portables and Panorama Ridge Secondary, where there are 14. Also targeted were two new elementary schools in the rapidly growing neighbourhoods of South Newton and East Clayton and money to buy land for four new schools – two elementary and two secondary. The new high schools are needed to relieving overcrowding at Earl Marriott Secondary and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, which both adopted staggered timetables last fall to accommodate excess students.

There are currently about 250 portables at Surrey schools.

Surrey Board of Education chairperson Laurae McNally says the school district wants to get construction rolling and points to the province – not the Ministry of Education, but the treasury board – for the sluggish progress.

The NDP has also called on the Liberals to "get their act together" and give Surrey the go-ahead to start construction.

Abbott has said the Surrey school projects are not delayed and while it would be nice to have schools built overnight, proper planning processes take time.

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