Roomy Surrey school bucks enrolment trend

There's room for new students in all divisions at Port Kells Elementary School, launching before and after school care plus a pre-school.

One of Surrey’s best kept secrets may not remain that way for much longer. While its closest neighbours are once again at student capacity, cosy Port Kells Elementary has classrooms to spare.

With student enrolment “hovering at 100,” Principal Tess Souder says her school is in a unique situation in Surrey, B.C.’s largest, and fastest-growing school district.

“I live in Cloverdale, and all of the schools in the area are at capacity. Every single classroom and portable is fully loaded, and they have to turn students away. With our school, we have empty classrooms, which is unusual.”

Because of its rural setting at 19076 88 Avenue, Port Kells Elementary has one of the largest catchment areas in the Surrey School District, Souder said.

There is presently room for new students in all divisions.

Monday (Aug. 26), Port Kells Elementary welcomes the public to an open house starting at 6:30 p.m. Parents are invited to tour the school, meet with staff, and get acquainted with the Tiny Toes Learning Centre, opening on Sept. 3, offering before and after school care, and a preschool.

Both programs are new this year.

“It adds a service for parents and also makes the school a vibrant heart of the community,” she said. “That’s the direction we want to go.”

Souder suspects prospective parents may have overlooked the quiet, country school-like atmosphere of Port Kells Elementary, established in 1909, making it the second oldest, still-operating elementary school in Surrey.

It’s set amid heritage trees and boasts acres of grassy play areas, with two playgrounds and plenty of parking.

In the afternoon, there’s no line up as parents picking up their children after school rally their vehicles for position, she adds.

“At our little school, there’s no traffic jam. It’s the complete opposite,” Souder said. “It’s sort of like an old, country school.”

The school’s rural setting means students have enjoyed smaller class sizes, too.

The school has close ties with the surrounding community, with a parent-run pancake breakfast on the last day of classes before Christmas break, and organizations such as the Port Kells volunteer fire department acting as a learning valuable resource for some of the classes.

“It’s just a down-to-earth place. It’s lovely.”

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