It’s good news that the City of Surrey and Surrey School District have agreed to come up with their own plan for school construction – rather than waiting for a revised one to be handed down by the provincial government.
The two local bodies are, after all, much better positioned to understand the realities of the school/development equation on the ground here. And they see clearly the chronic shortage of school spaces in the city can no longer wait for the uncertain pace of provincial deliberations.
It’s unfortunate, however, that it has taken this long for push to come to shove.
A turning point came this April, when Surrey trustees unanimously passed a motion asking to the city to suspend development approvals in Clayton, Grandview/South Surrey and Newton until the board received adequate provincial funding. It only underlined the point when residents packed an information meeting on a residential development for Panorama Ridge, angrily insisting on a moratorium until the school-space issue has been addressed.
It’s been a slow and painful lesson in Surrey that development without adequate physical and social infrastructure – including schools – is only asking for a host of subsequent problems and costs.
It’s clear from the new determination of the city and the school board to develop a new action plan that Surrey politicians – and the residents they serve – “get it.”
It’s also clear that the message that “enough is enough” reached the provincial government – judging by the May 20 announcement of $100 million in funding for 2,700 new school spaces in the city.
While provincial politicians may believe this checks the appropriate box to make the problem disappear, it’s hard to ignore claims that it’s all too little, too late.
These are all problems that have been manifest for years while development galloped unbridled and students endured cramped classrooms.
And even though the current funding announcement is welcome, the reality is that the effect of the new spaces will not be felt – in any practical way – until at least 2020.
In real terms, that means a student completing the first year of high school this month will be a graduate by the time the new schools will be open – the last in a generation of youth, with more planning, who won’t know what an adequately funded school system looks like, or how it could have supported and enriched their journey forward.