Surrey’s School Board office.

Surrey must create 168 new classrooms, hire 300 teachers by September

District bringing in more portables after Supreme Court Ruling in favour of BC Teachers’ Federation

SURREY — More portables and hundreds of teachers are coming to Surrey as the district scrambles to make room for 168 new classrooms by September.

Finding the space will also mean the district is being forced to convert “non-educational spaces” like computer labs into classrooms.

The move comes after a Supreme Court Ruling in favour of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation that ruled to restore contract language and class-size and class-composition deleted in 2002. The decision found the B.C. government acted wrongly when it stripped such limits from teachers’ contracts.

School board chair Shawn Wilson confirmedthat the district will require 168 new “enrolling clasrooms” by the fall.

Where will those spaces come from in an already jam-packed district?

“We require 168 new learning spaces inside our schools that already are stretched so Surrey will be requesting about 30 additional portables as well as adjusting space…. We do not have enough room, we will require additional portables or school additions/modifications on top of our new schools.”

An “audit of space” has been done, as is done every year, but Wilson said “this year it has increased vigilance because of the implifications of the new Collective Agreement Language.”

“We are analyzing space, analyzing the new Memorandum of Agreement and the new Collective Agreement Language and we are working to implement,” said Wilson. “This will require many new portables, and some space in schools that currently is not used for a ‘class’ will likely need to be used. Example – two classrooms, side by side each have three teachers using it as a learning support room. We will enrol a class in one of the rooms and these six teachers will work together to support students in another room. We are only capturing space that we believe can easily be converted to a classroom. Another example, a portable dedicated for French as a Second Language support will become an enrolling classroom and that support will happen in the other class where the kids reside. The teacher will travel.”

Computer labs will likely be lost as well.

“In many cases, schools have space that we could convert to a classroom. For another example, we have been moving as a district away from computer labs. With funding for minor renovations, these labs (where appropriate) could be classrooms.”

But he said the goal is to “retain and enhance instructional programming and opportunities” and emphasized that in times of significant overcrowding “kids need outlets for energy and creativity” and “such flexible spaces are important and the fine arts, explanatories and applied skills are needed more than ever. We need to protect these spaces.”

The district is also “acting quickly” to get new portables ready for the fall.

“The new process has a separate capital request going to the Ministry to fund new portables,” he explained. “This is money above and beyond what we would need for capital projects. There is no requirement to pay for them from operating and implementation of the language also has a provision for ‘remedy’ if there is insufficient space.”

Currently, Surrey portables cost the district the equivalent of about 50 full-time teachers a year.

Teachers must also be added this fall, Wilson continues.

“We are adding about 200 enrolling teachers and over 100 non-enrolling teachers,” he said. “Three hundred teachers is the addition of a lot of support that we did not have. Smaller class sizes, increased non-enrolling support, that is what we are trying to accommodate.”

Wilson said he has faith the district can get the job done.

“Right now it’s difficult to be precise on what may occur and really, we won’t have a clear picture until September. There certainly will be difficulties in some schools, but most schools will be able to meet the requirements. In the big picture, the Memorandum agreement foresaw major problems in the event the BCTF won the Supreme Court ruling and both sides accepted that reality. They won, the language is restored and so we simply have to do the best we can.

“That’s why a remedy for non-compliance was structured,” he added. “Yes it is a more dramatic problem for Surrey as we are already experiencing growth in the district. Our staff are trying to deal with this issue on top of their regular duties and it it is an enormous amount of work. They are working collaboratively with the Surrey Teachers Assocation on all of the issues and making every possible attempt to accommodate the agreement. We have very reliable and capable staff working on this and I can tell you, we will get the job done.”

Cindy Dalglish, with Surrey Students Now (SSN), is outraged that this is the state of affairs in the district.

“Every time we turn around, there is another hit to our education system, especially here in Surrey,” she said.

A release from SSN asks, “Without a stage, where will students perform? Without a library, where will books be sourced, read and treasured? Without a computer room, where will the skills for the 21st Century be taught? Where will students requiring extra support get extra support?”

But Wilson assured libraries would be untouched, and most music spaces.

“To me that sounds alarming,” he said. “The reality is this, if there was a school that had say a music room but it was not being utilized, like maybe it was a periodic thing, not begin utilized as best as possible, then it may be used for teaching.”

However, he added, that would be “very rare and unusual.”

As for spaces such as sensory rooms, used as therapy for children with disabilities, he said there’s “not a chance” they will be touched.

Wilson gave another example of a space that may be converted to teaching.

“Let’s say we have a portable classroom used for french immersion. So the student would go to her portable for french language instruction. Now that will be impacted because what you could do, is the students in the school they have a teacher in a classroom and go to portable for french instruction. So what we would say is we need her portable for regular classroom instruction and therefore, when it’s time for french language instruction, she goes to the classroom.”

In essence the district will see “more travelling teachers” and Wilson said it’s “not the end of the world to have that happen.”

But Surrey Students Now isn’t satisfied.

“The Minister of Education repeatedly stated that the restored language is fully funded, with no caveats,” said a SSN release. “Given the new requirements, he should have clarified that is only true if school space is already built. We are concerned, and we need to shed a light on this immediately.”

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures, including another at Panorama Ridge

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read