Several hundred students at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary walked out of class this morning in protest over timetable changes and to demand provincial funding to build schools.
Lord Tweedsmuir is one of two South Surrey high schools switching to extended operating hours next fall to deal with overcrowding.
At the sound of the 8:05 a.m. school bell, about 400 students left their classes to gather on the football field.
Twenty minutes later, they moved their protest to the school’s entrance, forming a large, peaceful crowd.
Principal Allan Buggie was only letting a few students at a time back into the school, but most seemed intent on continuing the walkout.
“The principal isn’t letting them in to go around en masse,” school district 36 spokesman Doug Strachan said. “They’re being allowed in if it’s to go back to class. The principal made it clear they weren’t going to march through the hallways and disrupt classes.”
The students who remained outside were mostly quiet, except for an occasional cheer or chant.
The protest follows the walkout Tuesday afternoon by students at Earl Marriott Secondary, which is also introducing extended operating hours next year to deal with cramped conditions.
Both high schools are operating past student capacity, and are expecting enrolment to jump next fall.
The district hasn’t seen any new capital funds from the province since 2005. The challenge is the schools have to take on more students without putting in more portable classrooms due to financial constraints.
Student enrolment at Lord Tweedsmuir is expected to rise to 1,800 students next fall – 150 more than the current 1,650, already over capacity.
“Our school is so squished, it’s incredible,” Grade 10 student Meghan Arnold said. “It’s not built for so many people. We need more room and we need more funding.”
With 800 new residents arriving in Surrey each month and no more school space on the horizon, students feel caught in the middle.
“They pack in the houses, saying there’s a new school nearby,” said Grade 10 student Tyler Wheatley.
“I don’t blame the school for this, I blame development, and the government,” he added. “All we care about is housing and money. I don’t know, the government isn’t paying for our schools anymore. The government should care for our education.”
For Grade 11 student Joshua Stobbe the timetable change isn’t the only focus of the students’ frustration.
“At the same time, it also says a lot about our government,” Stobbe said. “It seems like our government is more of a business than an actual government paid to look after the people by educating youth. You’d think educating people would be a top priority.”
Grade 9 Charlotte Bailey agreed.
“It’s not the bell schedule, it’s the fact that this is only a temporary situation,” Bailey said. “It’s only going to be getting worse.”