SURREY — Premier Christy Clark visited Surrey’s Panorama Park Elementary school Friday to announce 2,700 more student spaces for the overcrowded district.
The spots include 600 new seats through “rapid expansion projects” at Sullivan Woodward Hill and Panorama Park elementary schools.
@TheNowNewspaper where will those extra 600 elem spaces (Sullivan, Wdwd Hill etc) go to high school. Sullivan Heights is already bursting
— Carla S (@Carla_0000) May 20, 2016
The remaining 2,100 student spaces will be created through two new schools – a Grandview Heights secondary (expected to be completed by the end of 2020) and a Clayton North elementary (expected to be completed by the end of 2019).
The province also committed to buy new land for a new elementary school in Port Kells.
The projects come with a price tag of about $100 million. The province will foot about $74 million of the bill, with the district shelving out the rest.
@VancouverSun equivalent to removing ~90 portables! This announcement needs to happen 2 more times to keep up with development.
— Mary-Em (@Missusmerry) May 20, 2016
“Families are making a choice to call Surrey home – and that’s driving incredible growth along with our strong economy,” said Clark. “We’ve worked together with the Surrey school district to identify key projects and move them ahead quickly to make sure as many classrooms as possible are built for Surrey families and students.”
What wasn’t mentioned at Friday’s announcement was that the commitment leaves out two of the district’s top five priority projects – a second elementary in Clayton and an elementary in Grandview.
The district is so overcrowded some schools are on modified bell schedules and it utilizes roughly 300 portables in lieu of proper classroom space. Parents with children in particularly overcrowded schools often complain of rationed playground time and difficulty accessing gyms and libraries.
Last month, the Surrey School Board called on city hall to freeze development until schools can catch up and parents in Newton have been fighting for the same, as well as pushing the province to come forward with funding immediately.
Friday’s announcement builds on 1,870 seats already under construction in Surrey including work on a new Clayton North Secondary and additions to Adams Road, Morgan and Rosemary Heights elementaries.
Asked if these kind of announcements would be needed fairly regularly to keep up with growth, Clark said, “that is certainly what the MLAs behind me tell me needs to happen and I have to say I agree with them.
“This school district is unlike any other in the province. It’s growing faster than anywhere else and it’s one of the very few that actually is growing,” remarked the Premier. “I think we’re just going to have to find a new way of making sure that there are seats for when the kids arrive rather than some of the way we seem to be doing it now, which seems to be a little bit after the fact.”
Mayor Linda Hepner welcomed the funding, adding it will “help ease the strain we are seeing.”
School board chair Shawn Wilson said, “knowing relief is in sight is really what’s important to us.”