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Surrey to be short portables in September

Surrey School District had to create 168 new classrooms this year
(Black Press file photo)

The Surrey School District says not all of the 50 new portables it has on order will arrive in time for the first day of classes.

However, spokesman Doug Strachan says the situation will be manageable in the interim.

“Our approach is to ensure the portables we receive in time (almost 40) are installed at the schools that have little or no alternative or practical back-up plan,” he told the Now-Leader. “About a dozen needed portables that we anticipate may be a late have been designated for schools that have space that can reasonably and temporarily be used as classrooms, such as a common area. Most of these are schools that need only one portable.

“We expect all the portables will be here within two to three weeks of school start up.”

With the new 50 portables, Surrey will have about 325 district-wide.

The district was tasked with finding 168 new classrooms in Surrey this year. Thirty of those new classrooms are due to normal enrolment growth, and 138 are a result of the 2016 Supreme Court ruling that restored class size and composition to pre-2002 levels.

Strachan said the district found 115 of those within existing schools.

There was initially concern after it was revealed the district would need to take some non-teaching classrooms, such as computer labs, and turn them into classrooms.

Although some wondered if spaces like music rooms and libraries would be lost, Surrey school board chair Shawn Wilson has said there’s “not a chance” that therapy rooms and libraries would remain untouched.

“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 being utilized as best as possible, then it may be used for teaching,” Wilson said in April.

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

But after doing an audit of their space, the district was left with another 50 classrooms to create to fill the 168 quota, so it ordered 50 portables last spring.

While not all may be in place when school starts, the district says it has a “prioritization plan in place to ensure schools that need them most, receive available portables first.”

The 168 classrooms equate to the number that would be required during five years of typical enrolment, according to the district.

All of the new classrooms have been added to elementary schools.

Meantime, Surrey is expected to welcome an additional 800 to 1,000 students this fall, bringing total enrolment in the district to about 71,000.

While there are some new schools in the works, and several additions, the district says only one new project will be complete for kids this coming school year, and that’s the 1500-capacity Salish Secondary (at 184th Street and 73rd Avenue) which is set to open in the spring of 2018.

Then, in the fall of 2018, a 200-space addition to Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary is set to be done.

A new 600-space Clayton North Elementary is expected to open in the fall of 2019, and a new 1,500-capacity Grandview Heights Secondary in the fall of 2020.