COLUMN: Problem of portables isn’t going away

When classes resume Sept. 3, Surrey schools will be even more overcrowded than they were last year.

The school district expects to have 360 portable classrooms in place when school starts again – up from 333 in the past school year. Enrolment will be up again, but the exact number of new students won’t be known until they actually show up at the schools. In recent years, enrolment has been growing by about 1,000 students each year.

The Surrey Schools Coalition, an alliance of parents, trade associations and businesses, recently sent out a press release stating that the province needs to set up a special growth fund to cover the costs of the portables, given the dramatic growth in the district and the slow pace of new classroom construction. Capital costs for new schools and additions are paid for by the ministry of education, but the cost of portables is paid by the school district from operating funds.

The cost of portables in the coming school year is expected to be $10.7 million, up from $8.5 million in 2018-19. Portable costs were half of that amount in the previous year.

Coalition spokesman Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said, “Student growth in Surrey is expected to grow by 1,000 new students per year, and simply put, we need collaboration between the province, the district and the City of Surrey.”

This collaboration isn’t always forthcoming, as is the case with one proposed new school in the Clayton area – the neighbourhood I live in.

While funding for the school was announced in March, 2017 by former education minister Mike Bernier (the BC Liberals were still in power), construction work has yet to begin – two-and-a-half years later. The province has put up the money, and the school district has done the work needed to prepare to build the school. However, the city has held up the project by insisting on an outlet for storm water, which must be routed off the school property. The city is working on a storm-water facility to handle the surges of water in wetter months from pending development in the West Clayton area, but work on that project is far from complete.

The school, Regent Road Elementary, was originally scheduled to be open in September, 2020. It is to house 655 students. A revised opening date has not been announced, but based on the pace of school construction, it will likely be delayed by at least two years. A contract to build it has yet to be awarded.

This is just one example of how poorly-prepared Surrey is, in terms of infrastructure, to handle growth and development. Students who learn in portables still get an education, but it isn’t the same as learning within a classroom in a building. Everyone talks about the portable issue – but when it comes to actual action, few are actually doing something about it.

The Clayton, Grandview and Sullivan areas are at the forefront of Surrey communities facing severe classroom shortages.

Parents have been pushing the past and present provincial governments for action, and were hopeful when the NDP formed government and pledged some concrete action on the issue.

Promises by John Horgan during the 2017 election campaign that portables in Surrey would be eliminated are hollow words. The facts show that the problem is getting worse, not better.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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

Just Posted

South Surrey-based pen-pal program aims to reduce seniors’ isolation during pandemic

South Surrey/White Rock concierge service to connects kids & seniors virtually

Surrey city council moving to virtual meetings

For public hearings, people can register to speak via telephone

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

33-storey highrise proposal coming to Surrey council, first of three phases

Second and third phases include 36-storey and 31-storey towers

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock, Delta and beyond

APRIL 4: Two people in Delta fined for trying to re-sell N95 masks

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Exercises move online with YMCA’s new nationwide virtual workout program

YThrive Home offers dozens of free workout videos for people during COVID-19 self-isolation period

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution; two other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, says correctional officer

B.C. community service provider hosts friendly art competition for youth

Theme for Pacific Community Resources contest is ‘finding the silver lining in difficult times’

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

TransLink to reduce service on some bus routes, SeaBus, West Coast Express

Changes start April 6 ‘due to low ridership and financial pressures’ amid COVID-19

Most Read

l -->