The Ministry of Education has approved funding for the site of a new Newton secondary school, but the district has yet to purchase a site.
During a recent board meeting, Dave Riley, the district’s capital project office director, presented to the board of education the five-year capital plan and its major capital project requests, with the new 1,200-seat Newton secondary school being bumped up to the top spot in the district’s top-five requests.
“All of our projects are, of course, priorities but we have to draw the line at five.”
The other four requests for the 2023-24 capital plan are: relocating and increasing capacity for Hjorth Road Elementary, a new site for a Clayton Elementary, a new site for Anniedale/Tynehead west and a 500-seat addition at Clayton Heights Secondary.
A 500-seat addition at Clayton Heights was an election promise from the BC NDP during the 2020 provincial election.
Last year, the new secondary school was second on the list after a 500-seat addition at Fleetwood Park Secondary. In April of this year, the district noted it had received support from the ministry on the Fleetwood Park addition and would be moving forward on a business case next.
Trustee Gary Tymoschuk, who said “it should not go unnoticed that this shopping list is $2 billion worth of additions, expansions, new site acquisitions,” noted the new 1,200-seat Newton secondary is the district’s “number-one priority.”
But Tymoschuk said he thinks “everybody knows in Surrey that our high schools or secondary schools quickly get up to that and beyond very quickly.”
“It just seems to me that the new norm particularly here in Surrey is at least 1,500 and I think to the greatest extent possible we should try to aim for those kinds of sizes of schools, maybe even 1,700 or 1,800.”
He added the district has to work with the provincial government, which doesn’t always necessarily approve such large high schools.
“But I think we’ve got to do our utmost to try and push forward with those kinds of expansion numbers.”
In Newton, there are five secondary schools: Frank Hurt, Panorama Ridge, Princess Margaret, Sullivan Heights and Tamanawis. At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, all but one was overcrowded, according to data from the school district.
Starting this fall, Sullivan Heights will have the highest capacity following a 700-seat addition. It will have capacity of 1,700 students. But as of September 2021, 1,646 students were enrolled with a capacity of 1,000 seats.
Sullivan Heights is followed by Princess Margaret for the next-highest capacity at 1,500. As of September 2021, it was just under capacity at 1,380 students enrolled.
Princess Margaret has a capacity for 1,400 students, but there were 1,553 students enrolled as of last fall.
Frank Hurt has 1,360 students enrolled last fall, with a capacity for 1,250 students.
And Tamanawis has the smallest capacity, with 1,125 seats, but 1,445 students enrolled.