Surrey school district brought its five-year plan before Surrey city council on Monday (Nov. 28) evening, outlining a proposal for the development of eight new schools, replacement of one elementary school and expansion of another elementary school. The plan was endorsed unanimously by council.
As part of its annual capital plan, which was presented at council’s regular meeting, Surrey Schools includes a component for eligible school sites to be approved by the Ministry of Education.
The new eligible school sites will be elementary schools in the areas of Clayton, Anniedale/Tynehead West, Fleetwood, Abbey Ridge and Pacific/Sunnyside Heights, with secondary schools in the areas of South Port Kells, East Newton and a second one in Grandview.
Hjorth Road Elementary has been chosen as the eligible school replacement and Grandview Heights Secondary as needing an expansion.
In the next 10 years, Surrey and White Rock will build 54,057 new dwelling units, including secondary units, the Surrey school board estimates. The board expects a total of 7,751 school-age kids will live in these new homes.
The proposed school sites will require 40.2 hectares of land at an estimated cost of $447,000,000.
Coun. Linda Annis stated in a press release before the meeting that the estimated number of new students “seems far too low when you consider that young families and immigrant families are attracted to Surrey. Our city has a reputation for welcoming families, so why would we think there would only be 7,700 school children living in 54,000 new homes?
“It just doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not the reality we see in Surrey.”
The projection at the beginning of the current school year was for 900 new students. In fact, more than double that number – 2,200 students – enrolled in September. Annis pointed to this low estimate as the reason the number of school sites proposed in the capital plan won’t properly serve the community.
“It’s clear we need to do a better job of predicting family- and student-growth in our city, so that we can make more realistic plans for new school sites… We need to get out in front of this growth, rather than falling further behind every year,” Annis said.
During the meeting, Annis expressed the hope that council will hold regular meetings with the provincial government and the school board to improve student projections in the future
“I have a real fear that we’re going to continue being the portable capital hub of British Columbia,” Annis said.
The Surrey school district has 310 portables in use, with an extra 25 that are now empty but have not been removed yet from the school sites.
White Rock council unanimously endorsed the school sites proposal at its Nov. 21 meeting.