Opposition MLAs invited a group of Surrey parents to the B.C. legislature Wednesday to press the government for more public school space.
“Surrey schools are bursting at the seams from overcrowded conditions,” NDP education critic Rob Fleming told Education Minister Mike Bernier in question period. “An entire generation of parents and kids in Surrey has seen school overcrowding get worse, not better, under this government.”
Bernier said the ministry has financed numerous school projects in an effort to keep up with Surrey enrolment, and has brought the number of portable classrooms down to 280, below the 300-plus portables that were in use during the NDP government of the 1990s.
Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Sue Hammell pointed out that the 7,000 students currently in portables is more than the entire school district in Bernier’s constituency of Peace River South.
Bernier said the B.C. Liberal government has added 8,500 new student seats in Surrey, including Panorama Ridge, Clayton North and Katzie elementary, built in 2014 at a cost of $15 million.
Fleming said Katzie elementary illustrates the problem. Built for 500 students, it now has 900 enrolled. “It’s a school where students sat in desks in a makeshift hallway classroom until the fire marshal shut it down.”
Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston noted that the overcrowding prompted the Surrey school board to call for a freeze on housing development in the Clayton, Grandview-South Surrey and Newton areas until the board receives more capital funds from the province to build additional schools.
Fleming said Surrey is the only district in the province where high school students attend classes in shifts, and have difficulty getting help after class because teachers have another group of students to instruct.