The NDP’s education spokesperson Rob Fleming and two Surrey MLAs stood outside Hazelgrove Elementary Wednesday afternoon, lashing out at the B.C. Liberals for not addressing enrolment growth and overcrowding in Surrey schools.
“Surrey has been one of the fastest growing school districts in the province, adding thousands of students every year,” said Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.
Surrey’s school enrolment jumped by 900 more students than were anticipated last fall, a number that doesn’t include the 500 refugee students who are expected to settle in Surrey this year, he added.
Fleming was flanked by MLAs Sue Hammell (Surrey-Green Timbers) and Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton) outside the school, located in the fast-growing enclave of Clayton, where two new elementary schools are planned, even though the provincial government hasn’t announced capital funding for the projects.
Additionally, the Clayton North Secondary School project – originally supposed to be completed by fall 2017 – is now expected to be complete by the end of 2018.
Boundary adjustments to school catchment areas because of overcrowding mean some families won’t be able to take their children to the nearest schools in their neighbourhoods, adding to the frustration, he said.
“We need to see real action from Christy Clark and her government, not more unrealistic promises and photo ops,” he said.
Hammell said Hazelgrove symbolizes the overcrowding problem in Surrey schools. Built in 2009, it has six portables and.
“When you overcrowd schools, you reduce the teachers’ effectiveness and the overall school community’s effectiveness to deliver the extras or the variety or the diversity of programs,” Hammell said. “They get reduced to just managing under stress and under crowded circumstances.”
She said the Liberals have had 12 years to deal with the issue.
Meanwhile, “The Surrey School board has put budget after capital budget in front of them. What they get in return is paltry compared to their needs.”
Bains said the Surrey School District is one of the most efficient in the province.
“They’ve cut everywhere and they’ve made the whole system so efficient,” he said.
The school district spends $4 million annually to service 300 portables, money that would be better spent in the classrooms, Bains said.
“Going back to their past record, parents should be worried, because this government isn’t very good at planning,” Bains said. “This population growth isn’t something that dropped on them accidentally, they knew for the past 30 years that the population growth in Surrey will continue for the foreseeable future.”
“I think that’s what’s really frustrating parents and teachers,” he added.