For a total of $43.5 million, the Surrey school district now has two new sites for future schools.
Minister of Education Rob Fleming, along with Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen, announced the two new sites Tuesday at Surrey City Hall.
The first site, in South Surrey’s Redwood Heights neighbourhood, cost $25.5 million. The subject site was actually at Surrey council during the Dec. 2, 2019 meeting where it was introduced for rezoning.
The second site, next to Goldstone Park in the Sullivan neighbourhood, cost $18 million, the ministry told the Now-Leader. The site was acquired on Friday.
The ministry provided the money to the district to purchase the two properties.
This is in addition to a site in Sunnyside that was purchased last year, the ministry states. That site, Fleming said, will be announced at a later date.
Fleming said the site purchases are in collaboration with the ongoing work with the province, the district and the city. He said the three had their fifth Surrey Schools Summit Tuesday morning.
“All of these are forward-thinking investments that we’re making to ensure that land is in place to build schools,” Fleming said. “That is very, very expensive to try and assemble school sites after the fact, after the development has happened.”
Fleming said this is in addition to the $270 million the province has already provided to the Surrey school district since September 2017.
“We have a backlog that we must continue to address,” noted Fleming, adding that the ministry and provincial government is still dealing with lack of funding from the previous government.
Asked what the timeline for these two sites are, Fleming said it will be “much sooner” than a suggested five to 10 years.
“We need to keep up the pace. We’re now thinking years ahead,” said Fleming, adding that the next step will be a business case for each site.
Larsen said Surrey is the fastest-growing district in the province, with an estimated 1,000 new students each school year.
“This type of growth requires strong partnerships with all levels of government,” she said. “Together we are addressing the growth our community is experiencing and finding sustainable solutions that work for parents and students.”
While Larsen said it will ease the portable situation, she said the district will “always” have portables.
“This is the first time I can say that we are actually now looking forward, so this is a big change for us, for students, for the parents and for trustees to be able to say that we will see in 2021, 2022 some ease of portables,” Larsen said. “We will always have portables in Surrey because we’re the fastest-growing (district). We have 1,000 students per year coming, but this is certainly the first time that we got ahead.”
Tuesday’s announcement, McCallum said, was part of his Safe Surrey Coalition’s mandate for “smart development.”
“By bringing in smart development, council is ensuring that all new development aligns with the construction of schools, transit and other amenities, which is exactly how we will be planning around these future school sites,” McCallum said.
He said is is “committed to reversing the past where our schools are bursting beyond capacity” as a result of new development not aligning with “essential development.