Increasingly frustrated with the snail’s pace at which new schools are being built, Surrey trustees are asking city council to halt new development until growth is adequately addressed.
On Thursday, Surrey Board of Education Trustee Laurae McNally tabled a motion that the City of Surrey “temporarily suspend all new development approvals in the Clayton, Grandview/South Surrey and Newton regions until the Surrey School District receives adequate provincial funding to support the growing numbers of students moving into these regions.”
The motion passed unanimously.
“It’s the kids in this city who are suffering,” said McNally. “Parents have been unbelievably patient, but the province needs to step up and make some announcements in Surrey.”
With 70,000 students, Surrey’s is the biggest school district in the province. The overflow from crowded schools and could easily fill 30 new schools immediately, McNally said.
The projected wave of new students for next year is forecasted to be upwards of 1,000.
Sunnyside Elementary is bracing for a “massive influx” of kindergarten children this fall, enough to fill up to six classes at the South Surrey school.
While district officials agree the projected enrolment of 112 new kindergarten students at the South Surrey school is “on the high side,” they say it isn’t a new concept.
“We’ve had six, and we’ve had more in the past, in the Clayton area,” spokesman Doug Strachan said. “This is nothing new to us in the district, for sure. There’s been over-capacity in various schools for at least 10 years now.”
Strachan said there are not many options available.
“Short of telling young families ‘you can’t move here,’ we’re doing all we can,” Strachan said.
McNally believes the main roadblocks start in the offices of the minister of finance and the premier, however she is hoping the province will realize the unique situation faced by Surrey students and fund new school construction accordingly.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner told The Leader putting a hold on new construction isn’t in the cards, noting that freezing development would jeopardize the city’s robust economy.
“This is really a policy issue and the current policy requires (demonstrating) students and the over-capacity of students before the construction of a new school,” she said.
McNally said something needs to be done soon.
“We’re not a resource town, we’re an urban area with tons of land yet to develop,” she said of Surrey’s booming residential construction. “But it’s like going to Cinderella’s ball and your partner doesn’t show up. The government holds the purse strings.”
The City of Surrey and trustees have a meeting scheduled for the end of May to discuss possible solutions.
– with files from Tracy Holmes