New funding for Surrey schools

New funding for Surrey schools

$100 million announced for six new capital projects in the district.

The provincial government announced funding for six new school projects for Surrey on Friday aimed at alleviating some of the overcrowding issues in schools.

At a press conference at Panorama Park Elementary School in Newton on May 20, Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Mike Bernier said nearly $100 million will go towards construction of a new secondary school in Grandview Heights, an elementary school in Clayton North, additions to Sullivan, Woodward Hill and Panorama Park elementary schools, and the purchase of land for a future school in Port Kells.

The construction will add 2,700 new student spaces to the Surrey School District, the largest and fastest-growing district in the province.

While Grandview Heights high school is scheduled to open in 2020 and Clayton North elementary is slated to open in 2019, the three elementary school additions are to be fast-tracked and completed by the fall of 2017.

Elementary schools in the Clayton Village and Grandview Heights South areas that have been targeted as high priorities for the district were not part of the announcement.

At Friday’s press conference, Clark acknowledged the unique growth happening in Surrey and said discussions around funding in the district may need to be tailored to meet the needs of of the city and its growing student population.

“I think we need to have a good look at the way we decide when we will be funding a new school and make sure that accommodates school districts that are growing as quickly as this one,” said Clark. “I don’t want to suggest that changing the way we build the funding formula and the allocation for capital would solve all the problems, but I think it might go some way to improving the way Surrey receives its money.”

Although he is relieved new capital funding has been announced, Surrey Board of Education Chair Shawn Wilson hopes this is just the beginning of more funding to come.

“We’ve been working on capital funding for some time. After all, you just can’t leave things in the state they’re in now,” Wilson said. “So were relieved and happy for the students and parents of Surrey who have seen there kids in portables for too long and this will help alleviate some of that.”

However, Wilson noted it takes a long time to build a school.

“It’s one thing to get the announcement, but if this announcement today had occurred four years ago, we would be opening a new secondary school within months.”

The issue of overcrowded schools has heated up in recent weeks, with the Surrey school board calling for a temporary halt in residential development and parents speaking out against new housing projects until more school spaces could be provided.