The chair of the Surrey Board of Education has once again forwarded the district's concerns to Victoria about a lack of new school space and the fact Surrey spends $4.5 million annually on portables.

Lack of Surrey school space remains ‘critical,’ trustees tell Victoria

District airs capital funding and other concerns to provincial finance committee.

While shrinking school districts get compensation for their declining enrolment, Surrey has had to cut staff to pay for portables for its ever-growing student population. And that, says the school board chair, simply isn’t fair.

Shawn Wilson pointed to what trustees feel is inequitable treatment as part of a presentation made earlier this month to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

He said the province has provisions to cover unique costs for districts where student numbers are dwindling, but there’s nothing offered to districts like Surrey that incur extraordinary costs due to increasing enrolment.

“The playing field is uneven when we must reduce teaching staff to pay for portables while other district budgets are effectively compensated for vacant space,” Wilson said.

A lack of capital (building) money has left Surrey bustling with more than 70,000 students and not enough school space to put them in. The 300 portables housing the student overflow cost $15,000 apiece annually, equating to $4.5 million from Surrey’s operating budget. And that’s enough to pay about 50 teachers.

“While we acknowledge receiving a lion’s share of funding over the past decade, our situation remains critical,” said Wilson. “Surrey has more students in portables than half of B.C. school districts have in total enrolment.”

Surrey submitted its capital wish list to government last week, with a new high school in the Grandview Heights area once again topping the list. The district already owns land near the nearly completed swimming pool and has been waiting for government funding to proceed with construction. Even if announced today, the $47-million school would take three years to build, leaving Earl Marriott Secondary (EMS) and other overcrowded schools continuing to scramble.

EMS and three other Surrey high schools already run double shifts (with different grades attending at alternate times). Wilson said while that was once a temporary measure used in extraordinary circumstances, it’s become the norm in B.C.’s largest school district.

A “well-supported, well-articulated and transparent” capital plan is needed so adequate facilities can be provided for students, said the school board chair, who added the province also needs to stop encouraging school districts to bring in international students without allowing them to be counted in school capacity calculations.

During his presentation, Wilson also touched on shared services, a concept wherein districts can share costs for things all districts use. As a large district in a major urban region, Surrey doesn’t feel it’s always financially beneficial to be part of it and would like the board to have a choice whether to participate, rather than it be mandated.

Surrey’s final concern brought to the standing committee was the need for a “robust, fully-funded” compensation plan for exempt (non-union) staff, who have not had a wage increase for six years. Wilson said it’s making it difficult to recruit leadership and managers, who “lag behind” those they supervise.

“We have and will continue to experience ‘brain drain’ as talented professionals leave the K-12 sector.”

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds provincewide consultations each fall in preparation for the next provincial budget.

 

Just Posted

Son of slain former Hells Angel is one of two men sentenced for crime spree

Pair’s 2017 series of Lower Mainland robberies stretched from Surrey to Mission

‘Person of interest’ identified after suspicious meat left in North Delta park

Piles of meat have been dumped near the 63rd Avenue trail entrance four times in the last 30 days

Fundraiser launched for South Surrey stabbing victim’s funeral

Paul Prestbakmo remembered for ‘amazing smile, great soul’

Surrey-raised Merkules raps his way around the world

Cole Stevenson opens up about his ‘Scars,’ a hit remix of ‘Old Town Road’ and how he’s pals with Shaq

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

Mouse infestation hit Langley hospital’s kitchens

Droppings and urine were found by Fraser Health inspectors in the spring

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

B.C. mom mourns 14-year-old son whose fatal overdose was posted online

Chantell Griffiths misses the son she hadn’t seen much in recent years

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Oppenheimer Park residents told to leave, clear out tents by Aug. 21

Police say park has seen influx of residents, violence in recent months

Most Read

l -->