A Montessori daycare offered before and after school at Sunnyside Elementary has been told that it will have to cease operations after June, because the space it occupies is needed as a classroom.
According to parent Laila Hussain, this will disrupt the childcare plans of some 37 families who use the daycare, operated by Bright Star Montessori.
But Surrey School District spokesperson Doug Strachan says that while it’s regrettable the decision had to be made, the district’s mandate is to provide education, not daycare.
Hussain said parents only found out in the first week of the new year that the daycare would be forced to close.
“We’re still waiting for 10 portables that were supposed to be constructed on the site,” Hussain told Peace Arch News.
“There’s no space in the area. This shows really bad planning on the part of the school district – the (new) school has only been open three years, and it takes 10 years for an elementary school to go up.
“They say they are expecting 750 students next year – 200 extra that they hadn’t planned for, so they are re-allocating the classroom. But taking over one classroom is not going to affect the situation.”
Hussain said that as a registered dietician at Surrey Memorial Hospital, and parent of two children at the school – with a third child, a teen, attending Semiahmoo Secondary – the daycare has been invaluable to her, and she knows other parents feel the same way.
“The daycare (has been) getting five to 10 calls a day for registration,” she said. “As working parents we want to make sure our children are in a safe environment.
“Where are our children going to go before and after school? They’re giving us in the community no other solution. They’re basically closing it down on us and saying ‘that’s your problem.’”
Strachan told PAN the district gave notice to the daycare in October that the operation would have to shut down.
“We’re a school – we need the space for teaching,” he said. “As far as childcare is concerned, we make space available when we can, but we’re not involved in childcare. It’s really to do with the relationship between the parents and the daycare provider.
“We’re empathetic with parents in the area, but, honestly, we don’t have any choice. This is another example of the impact of a growing school district.”
Strachan acknowledged the new Sunnyside Elementary – opened in September 2013 to replace the old school originally built on a different site in the late 1940s – reached capacity in a very short time.
Strachan said the popularity of South Surrey as a place to live – and the explosion of new housing in the area – has far outstripped the district’s plans for school infrastructure.
“We’ve seen it in other areas where there is a lot of new housing, like Grandview Heights, and the Clayton area – where we had a brand new school open up with portables already on site.
“It’s a challenge for a school district when so many people want to live and learn here. I suppose it’s preferable to being in an area where they have to close schools down, but it’s a challenge, nonetheless.”
Strachan said the district understands the impact “but it’s not much of a choice we have.”