COLUMN: Retiring school portables in Surrey is a hollow promise

COLUMN: Retiring school portables in Surrey is a hollow promise

Wheels of government move slow – an ominous sign for the next generation of students

There is a new council in place in Surrey but it continues to approve reams of new developments, just like its predecessor.

However, school construction has almost ground to a halt.

While Education Minister Rob Fleming and Premier John Horgan have made a lot of noises about ensuring Surrey gets funds for new schools more quickly, endless delays in actually building new schools is what is happening on the ground.

Five school projects have been delayed because of high construction costs, and others are lining up behind them. Bids to build the new schools came in too high, and the province has been slow to realize that fact. The school district is unable to proceed because the province will not allow it to exceed each project’s capital budget.

Three of the five projects in limbo are in the Grandview area, which probably has more residential construction underway than any other area of Surrey. One of them is for an addition to Pacific Heights Elementary, while the other two are for new schools. A fourth projects is also in South Surrey, in the Douglas area near the international border, where there are currently no schools at all. The fifth is in Clayton, where council is busy approving a raft of new development.

One of the Grandview projects facing delay is a new high school, which is badly needed to relieve pressure on South Surrey high schools. It was first approved by the province on Oct. 10, 2016 – more than two years ago – and secondary schools take far longer to build than elementaries.

The Clayton school was approved by the province on Oct. 7, 2016 and was supposed to open next September; it has now gone back out to tender. The addition to Pacific Heights has also gone back out to tender.

That the wheels of government bureaucracy move so slowly is an ominous sign for Surrey’s future – and for the coming generations of students.

A report to Surrey council notes that new construction in Surrey and White Rock are expected to add more than 44,000 residents in the next 10 years. That number actually sounds low, when compared to the recent pace of growth.

However, the district anticipates that, of those 44,000, more than 11,000 will be school-aged children. Its capital plan calls for seven new school sites and one school expansion over that time frame. That seems to be minimal. If a new elementary school houses 800 students, seven would house 5,600 – about half of the number of new students expected.

The reality is this. Surrey is growing at far too fast a pace for the district and province to keep up with school requirements. Portable classrooms will be in place for generations, at this fast pace of growth and glacial pace of school construction.

Promises by the province to reduce or eliminate portable classrooms in Surrey, and keep up with growth, are proving to be hollow.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at

Just Posted

Rahim Manji owns and operates the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Newton, along with the Caprice in South Surrey, a theatre in Duncan and another in Pitt Meadows. “I think right now it feels different than last June, it just does,” Manji said. “I’m a lot more optimistic, with more people calling, more people out and getting vaccinated, so I think the comfort level is a lot better.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey movie theatre operators reopen and rejoice, even with 50-max capacity

‘We have been one of the hardest-hit industries’

A sign warning of a pack of coyotes hangs near 2660 Croydon Dr. (Aaron Hinks photo)
South Surrey woman sounds alarm after encounter with pack of coyotes

Susan Martin said three full-grown coyotes were lurking around her home

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police searching for Surrey woman missing at Centennial Beach

Wenyan Lan, 54, reported missing when she didn’t come home from a crabbing/clam digging trip June 14

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read