Sunnyside Elementary opens additional space with gender-, sensory-inclusive features

Students at Sunnyside Elementary use the communal space outside of the classrooms to learn together. (Sobia Moman photo)Students at Sunnyside Elementary use the communal space outside of the classrooms to learn together. (Sobia Moman photo)
Sensory floors have become popular amongst Sunnyside students to take a brain break and regulate themselves, if needed, during the school day. (Sobia Moman photo)Sensory floors have become popular amongst Sunnyside students to take a brain break and regulate themselves, if needed, during the school day. (Sobia Moman photo)
Universal, individual washrooms for everyone have been added to Sunnyside Elementary for students and staff to use. (Sobia Moman photo)Universal, individual washrooms for everyone have been added to Sunnyside Elementary for students and staff to use. (Sobia Moman photo)
Vice principal Brandi Scott (left) and Lys Parades, principal of Sunnyside Elementary stand by a sensory wall that student can use. (Sobia Moman photo)Vice principal Brandi Scott (left) and Lys Parades, principal of Sunnyside Elementary stand by a sensory wall that student can use. (Sobia Moman photo)

Sunnyside Elementary has at last emptied every one of its portables and moved all students indoors to 10 brand new classrooms.

The start of construction for addition to the South Surrey school, at 2828 159 St., was announced on May 28, 2021 and was originally set to open at the beginning of the school year. However, delays set back the opening until Monday, Nov. 14 – the first full day students and staff spent in that area of the school.

READ MORE: Construction delays set back opening dates of South Surrey, White Rock school additions

Along with the 10 classrooms, some new features have been added to promote inclusivity at Sunnyside.

Most students in the new classrooms were previously learning in one of six portables.

“They’ve never actually been in the building, so it’s exciting,” principal of Sunnyside Elementary Lys Parades told Peace Arch News during a tour of the new space.

Now, the students get to be a part of the school community and collaborate with other students, while the teachers who once taught in the portables get to work more closely with their colleagues.

Flexible seating has been introduced at the school, which allows students to have more of a say in their learning experience, Parades said.

“Some kids want to sit in a chair that rocks back and forth, others want a stationary seat, some choose to sit on a cushion on the floor. They get to choose.”

In the hallways of the school — in the new addition, but also in existing areas — sensory floors have been welcomed.

“Sometimes kids need an opportunity to re-regulate and just have a bit of a break,” said Parades, who explained that the sensory floors allow students to take a “brain break” to hop on the numbers displayed across the floor.

Sensory walls are also included in the space for students who prefer touch for addressing their sensory needs. Rooms where students can regulate themselves are also in the process of being introduced, one with a hammock, the other with a trampoline, designed to be inclusive to different students.

New universal individual washrooms have also been added for people identifying as any gender, said Sheetal Basra, project manager at the capital planning office.

For years before the school was expanded, Sunnyside was running over-capacity. First, they had 12 portable classrooms, then went down to six, now they’re all empty and will soon be removed, Parades said excitedly.

“The original capital plan actually identified an eight-classroom addition, but when we started looking at the numbers we were like, ‘eight classrooms isn’t enough’ so then we looked at either 10 or 12,” said Autumn Sweet, associate director at the capital planning office, explaining that 12 classrooms required too much physical space.

With boundary catchment changes, however, the 10 classrooms have proven to be enough space for the school, which is no longer running over-capacity, Parades said.

“Sunnyside Elementary’s new addition not only alleviates space constraints and eliminates the need for portables at the school, but is another step in addressing the ongoing, rapid population growth in the South Surrey area,” said Laurie Larsen, Surrey Board of Education chair.


@SobiaMoman
sobia.moman@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

SchoolsSurreyWhite Rock