The B.C. report on the 2024 budget consultation offers recommendations for school districts, including Surrey, that could help address the community’s growing portable problem.
Conducted by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, members released their recommendations for the province to the Legislative Assembly and the public on Thursday (Aug. 3). The recommendations, made by a committee of nine members (five NDP and four BC United), were based on many factors, including input from community members and organizations during public consultations.
A major topic of concern at the Surrey school district recently, and for decades, has been its use of portables, an issue that grows as enrolment continues to increase.
“School District No. 36 (Surrey) recommended eliminating the requirement that local school districts contribute up to 50 per cent of capital funding on major capital projects for new spaces as it creates significant budgetary pressures and is becoming increasingly unsustainable,” the report reads.
The district also requested more funding for new schools, according to the report, citing increasing enrolment as its biggest challenge, due to a “critical shortage” of current public school space throughout Surrey and White Rock.
“The City of Surrey added that to meet the classroom space needs of the new 1,200 students arriving each year would require two new elementary schools to be constructed every year and urged an increase in funding and to make funding more predictable for school infrastructure in Surrey.”
Rooms not intended to serve as regular classrooms are being used as such in order to fill the need for classroom space. These include computer labs and multi-purpose rooms, in addition to portables, representatives of the school district said.
According to a Surrey Board of Trade media release, the Surrey school district diverts more than $10 million annually from its operating budget to portables.
“This means fewer resources for students. All Surrey students are affected and deserve equal access, opportunity, and fair treatment to quality education when they return to school in September,” the release reads.
The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils emphasized the importance of conversations between the Ministry of Education and all stakeholders about the needs for school space in the city.
Recommendations made by the committee include “targeted funding for the purchase, maintenance and relocation costs of portables and establish clearly defined timelines to ensure their use is temporary.”
Others include funding increases for anti-racism and inclusive programs, reinstating the special education grant to support kids with mobility challenges and other physical and learning disabilities, and financial support to districts that provide settlement services for newcomers to the country.