Surrey school district proposing 13 new schools in the next decade

Staff suggest new designs for future builds to maximize school space

In the next 10 years, the Surrey school district is hoping to have 13 new schools built.

Kelly Isford-Saxon, the manager of demographics and facilities planning with Surrey Schools, gave a presentation at Wednesday’s (Sept. 16) board of education meeting about the district’s long-range facility plan and the five-year capital plan.

“We want to significantly reduce the number of portables in our district. We need to acquire new sites in our new neighbourhoods,” said Isford-Saxon.

“We need to maintain our existing facilities to an appropriate educational standard. And lastly, provide flexible and appropriate space that will support our students’ learning experience and partnerships.”

When it comes to enrolment at the elementary level, she said it could go as high as 52,676 students by 2029. For secondary, it could go as high as 35,383 students.

That would be a little more than 88,000 students in the Surrey school district within the next decade.

Currently, there are about 75,000 students in the district.

Isford-Saxon said that around 2024, student spaces and enrolment in elementary schools “almost” align, but growth continues at a higher rate that new student spaces afterward.

As for secondary, she said the need for spaces is “quite high,” adding that not only will there need to be additions at existing schools, “but we’re also suggesting a need for a new high school, if not two.”

One of those suggested high school locations would be around 152nd Street and 66th Avenue to ease crowding issues at Fleetwood Park, Frank Hurt and Sullivan Heights, which was the most overcrowded school in the district in the 2018/2019 school year at 153.4 per cent capacity.

READ ALSO: How teens grapple with growth at Surrey’s most crowded high school, June 11, 2019

In addition to the 13 new schools the district is proposing, which would be a capital request of $583.7 million from the Ministry of Education, there are also 19 proposed additions to schools ($417.8 million), nine proposed site acquisitions ($187.5 million) and three proposed replacement schools ($119.7 million).

Following her presentation, Trustee Gary Tymoschuk said in recent years the district has been looking at 600-plus seats at the elementary level and between 1,500 and 1,800 students in high schools.

“What does the future look like for the size of schools? I’m sure the days are gone of the 350- and 450-student elementaries and the 900 secondaries.”

Isford-Saxon said that “right now, 700 (students) allows us to manage maybe short- and maybe mid-term growth.”

“But what does long-term growth look like? Do we have the ability within the existing site that we have to add on? If we don’t, then we have to start looking at new schools,” she explained.

When building around higher-density areas, such as those with public transit, Isford-Saxon said it might take looking at different building designs, such as building up – or down.

“I really feel that moving forward, this idea of having really small sites and making the most of them, will eventually lead us to a dead end,” she said.

“Especially with this push for so much surface parking. I’m hopeful that we can soon put that underground, so that we can have much more space for the outdoor learning and classrooms and stuff like that.”

The board unanimously approved the long-range facility plan and the five-year capital plan.

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