COLUMN: More schools needed as district grows

The City of Surrey should do all it can to build more neighbourhood schools as the city expands

The City of Surrey should do all it can to assist Surrey Board of Education in its battle to build neighbourhood schools for the growing student population of the school district.

Veteran trustee Laurae McNally, who has seen this movie dozens of times, urged trustees to seek a meeting with city council about rapid growth and the urgent need for more space for students.

McNally first decided to run for trustee back in the early 1980s precisely because of this issue. At that time, there was severe overcrowding in some South Surrey schools and she and other parents proved to the board of the day that the district was not properly planning for growth which people in schools and growing neighbourhoods could see was coming.

Planning became far more precise, and dozens of new schools have been built in Surrey since that time. However, the city has also grown dramatically. It has grown by more than 300,000 people since McNally was first elected – yet the issue of growth and lack of classroom space continues.

Unfortunately, too much power over this issue had been placed in the hands of the provincial government. School districts have basically no say in making decisions on which capital projects should be funded first. Years ago, they did have more say – but they also had to put capital plans to referendum for voter approval. That system was abolished in the early 1970s, of necessity, because people simply would not come out and vote on the issue.

The province is now telling school districts that they need to come up with significant amounts of capital for new projects. The problem with this is that growing school districts have little or no capital available to them.

The province is trying to keep its own capital costs down, and while that is a responsible action, it’s pretty hard to justify in areas like Surrey where growth is ongoing and dramatic.

McNally points out that 1,000 new residents move to Surrey each month. The birth rate in the two Surrey-area hospitals, Surrey Memorial and Peace Arch, is close to 4,000 per year.

Almost all of those babies will be attending Surrey schools within the next five years – as will thousands of other kids who parents do not live here today.

There are 6,000 students in portable classrooms in Surrey right now. That’s considerably more than are enrolled in many B.C. school districts.

The city needs to back the school district for two reasons. One is its own responsibility. Surrey is a pro-development city, and there are lots of development projects underway. The city is encouraging new residents to move here, but they aren’t getting a fair deal if their kids miss out on some aspects of education because of overcrowding or lack of new school construction.

The second reason is that the city has a considerable amount of moral suasion with the current government. Most, if not all, councillors back the BC Liberals, including Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who is the Surrey-Fleetwood MLA. If city council speaks up on this issue, chances are it will be listened to.

The provincial government points out that it’s spent about $300 million on capital projects, land and seismic upgrades in Surrey since 2001. It has, and that’s a good thing. However, capital spending needs to continue at a steady level, because the city has more children living here each month.

McNally is taking her title of trustee seriously. As one entrusted to look out for the education needs of Surrey students, she believes it is imperative to do everything possible to improve their education. That includes building new schools and funding additions in a timely fashion.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.

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

Just Posted

Left, Rowena Leivo early on in her volunteer career with the South Surrey/White Rock Food Bank. Right, Leivo in the food bank Tuesday. (Contributed photos)
After 34 years, ‘The Boss’ retires from South Surrey Food Bank volunteer gig

Rowena Leivo, 90, spent a third of her life volunteering at the food bank

The Surrey Eagles are currently seeking billet families for its players in advance of the 2020-‘21 BC Hockey League season. (Garrett James photo)
Surrey Eagles in ‘desperate’ need of billet families for BCHL season

COVID-19 pandemic has made finding homes for players difficult: billet co-ordinator

Matthew Campbell, director of the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank, stands amongst a large amount of non-perishable food and household items being stored inside the Pacific Community Church. This year’s ‘Halloween For Hunger’ food drive, put on by students at Clayton Heights, will go to benefit the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Clayton Heights Secondary kicks off annual ‘Halloween for Hunger’ event

Students to collect much-needed items for food bank

Ali Watson in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…,” which plays until Nov. 8. (photo: Moonrider Productions)
Viewers of Arts Club’s streaming plays support Surrey Civic Theatres

Company’s ‘bubble method’ of theatre production means just 50 in-person tickets for each performance

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

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

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

The website Chigoby is among eight scam online retailers that have been identified by the Better Business Bureau. The site was fraudulently using an Abbotsford residential address, but has since switched to one in Poland.
8 scam online-shopping websites fraudulently use Abbotsford address

Better Business Bureau says victims lost hundreds for non-existent or poor-quality products

John Horgan brought the NDP campaign to Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 21, just three days before the B.C. vote (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Horgan brings NDP campaign to Langley

Predicts gains, says people are looking at the party ‘differently’ after three years

Most Read