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 frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca.

frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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

Just Posted

Hugh Dobbie’s South Surrey-based tech business Yare Media was recently acquired by California’s Visaic Inc. (SFU photo)
South Surrey tech company acquired by California business

Hugh Dobbie founded Yare Media in 2016, and ‘will remain involved’

Fraser Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Newton Elementary School in Surrey, according to an information bulletin Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Image: Google Street View)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at second Surrey elementary school

Newton Elementary closed for two weeks, set to reopen Dec. 14

Joy Johnson, seen here during an installation ceremony on Oct. 22, is Simon Fraser University’s 10th president and vice-chancellor. (Submitted photo)
SFU’s Surrey campus tackling COVID-19-related research

‘We can learn now,’ SFU president Joy Johnson said, ‘so should something like this happen again we’ll be prepared. We have to learn from this current pandemic’

Mayor Darryl Walker gives a welcoming hug to Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell at the inaugural meeting of the current White Rock council in 2018. (Alex Browne photo)
White Rock council under fire for inaugural prayer

BC Humanist Association charges city violated Supreme Court ruling two years ago

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

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

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read