Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, says a a review of B.C.’s school funding formula is long overdue. (Now-Leader file photos)

Coalition says it’s ‘ready’ to help province rid Surrey of school portables

Surrey School Coalition urges new NDP government to review school funding formula

A coalition of Surrey parents, business, developers and associations is urging the new provincial government to come to the table with innovative ideas on how to eliminate portables from city schools.

“The Surrey School Coalition looks forward to a review of B.C.’s funding formula with the promised comprehensive consultative process – a review hasn’t been done since 1988,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

“We were encouraged that the previous government pledged $217 million towards new schools in Surrey’s high growth areas, but we must now ensure that this funding now represents the floor from which new announcements need to be built upon.”

The Surrey School Coalition is comprised of the Surrey District Parents Advisory Council, Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association, Surrey Board of Trade and the Urban Development Institute.

The group says with thousands of students learning in portables for the 2017-2018 school season and the foreseeable future, a new funding formula is needed to address growth.

OUR VIEW: Big portable promises enticed Surrey votes – so what’s the plan?

Surrey is expected to welcome an additional 800 to 1,000 students this fall, bringing total enrolment in the district to about 71,000. To keep pace with this growth, the Surrey School Coalition says one new elementary school needs to be built every year and one new secondary school needs to be built every two to three years.

“The Surrey Board of Trade and the Surrey School Coalition are waiting for a meeting date with the Surrey NDP MLAs to hear how they plan to address education issues and how they plan to eliminate portable learning in Surrey,” Huberman said.

“We are ready and excited to meet and see how we can help.”

There are several new schools in the works, and several additions. The 1,500-capacity Salish Secondary (at 184th Street and 73rd Avenue) is set to open in 2018. A 200-space addition to Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary is also set to be finished in 2018. A new 600-space Clayton North Elementary is expected to open in the fall of 2019, and a new 1,500-capacity Grandview Heights Secondary in the fall of 2020.

Meanwhile, the Surrey School District says not all of the 50 new portables it has on order was scheduled to arrive in time for the first day of classes.

However, spokesman Doug Strachan says the situation will be manageable in the interim.

SEE ALSO: Surrey to be short portables in September

SEE ALSO: NDP would get Surrey students out of portables and into real classrooms, Horgan says

“Our approach is to ensure the portables we receive in time (almost 40) are installed at the schools that have little or no alternative or practical back-up plan,” Strachan told the Now-Leader.

“About a dozen needed portables that we anticipate may be a late have been designated for schools that have space that can reasonably and temporarily be used as classrooms, such as a common area. Most of these are schools that need only one portable.

“We expect all the portables will be here within two to three weeks of school start up.”

With the new 50 portables, Surrey will have about 325 district-wide.

In a statement emailed to the Now-Leader, BC Ministry of Education’s communications manager Sean Leslie said the number of portables in Surrey went up this year as class sizes were increased to comply with the Memorandum of Agreement with the BCTF.

However, the statement continued, the NDP is “committed to making sure that the use of portables to address growth pressures is not a long-term solution.”

Higher investments in school capital will come, the ministry says.

“It’s important that with enrollment in Surrey growing by about 1,000 new kids every year that we get ahead of the curve and then start to reduce portables within a couple of years’ time. We are making this a serious priority.”

With files from Amy Reid

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