Surrey schools brace for rush of refugees

Hundreds of Syrian students anticipated to arrive before end of year.

The Surrey School District anticipates hundreds of new students to enter local schools as refugees arrive from Syria.

The Surrey School District is anticipating 500 or more new students will enter local classrooms as an influx of Syrian refugees come to B.C. in the coming weeks.

Surrey is expected to be the number-one destination for refugees coming to the Metro Vancouver area. About 3,000 are expected by the end of the year, with approximately one-third predicted to reside in Surrey. A large percentage of those are expected to be school-aged children.

School district communications manager Doug Strachan said staff at the district’s Welcome Centre have been examining the logistics of taking in so many new students since shortly after the federal election.

“We’ve been doing the best we can, but it has been difficult without having solid details,” said Strachan.

The Welcome Centre has been around for the past six years and has settlement and multicultural workers who help immigrant and refugee families new to the community and local schools. Staff there assess student needs and assist in setting them up in classrooms with appropriate supports.

“We’re prepared,” said Strachan, “however, we need resources given the volume we expect.”

He said more language and assessment specialists will be necessary. As well, transportation costs could also be an issue as families may not find homes near schools that have space for new students.

“We’re a pretty full school district, but we do have schools that can accommodate more students, so it’s a matter of where the families are located and settled,” Strachan said. “We will ensure that the students can get an education.”

As reported in The Leader last week, there are major school space constraints in three areas of Surrey – Clayton, South Newton and Grandview. Outside those neighbourhoods, there are available classroom spots.

With an overall enrolment of 70,000, bringing in 500 more teens and kids is “something we can manage,” assured Strachan.

Still, it’s by far the largest influx of refugees the Surrey School District has had to manage. In the past – such as when refugees were fleeing Burma’s civil war about seven years ago – the district welcomed maybe 60 to 80 at one time.

“Some of this will have to play out,” said Strachan when asked if more teachers would be required. “Our main focus right now is getting them settled and into the schools.”

He said school district officials will be meeting with numerous agencies and government representatives next week to get further details and solidify plans.

Motivating school district staff during what could prove a challenging transition, he said, are the success stories of the many refugee families and students who have made their way through Surrey schools.

“What they’ve lived through is just incredible and you see them blossom athletically, academically, and really contribute.”

Enrolment jump already higher than expected

 

Apart from the influx of refugees, nearly four times the number of expected new students flowed into Surrey schools this fall.

While the district predicted overall enrolment to rise by about 250 students this year over last, 950 new children and teens showed up.

Most of the new students are at the elementary level.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

Sources volunteers face off at the organization’s ‘Enchanted’ gala – one as a fairy and the other as her magic-mirror reflection – held in 2019. (Tiffany Kwong photo)
‘Rising infections’ prompts move to virtual Sources gala

Silent auction, raffle opens to public at 9 a.m. Oct. 30

This year’s annual Lighted Boat Parade has been cancelled. (File photo)
White Rock’s annual Lighted Boat Parade cancelled

COVID-19 cited as main reason for cancellation of popular winter tradition

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

A surveillance camera in a photo posted to the Project Iris page on surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Quality surveillance video helps catch crooks, Surrey Mounties say

Charges laid in connection to break-and-enter in Guildford area

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Most Read