COLUMN: School crunch continues

B.C. is trying to keep its capital costs down, but that's hard to justify in areas like Surrey where growth is dramatic.

The City of Surrey should do all it can to assist Surrey Board of Education in its battle to build schools for the growing student population of the district.

Veteran Trustee Laurae McNally, who has seen this movie dozens of times, urged fellow trustees to seek a meeting with city council about rapid growth and the urgent need for more space for students.

McNally first decided to run for trustee back in the early 1980s precisely because of this issue.  At that time, there was severe overcrowding in some South Surrey schools and she and other parents proved to the board of the day that the district was not properly planning for growth.

Planning became far more precise and dozens of new schools have been built in Surrey since that time. However, the city has also grown dramatically. It has grown by more than 300,000 people since McNally was first elected – yet the issue of lack of classroom space continues.

Unfortunately, too much power over this issue had been placed in the hands of the provincial government. School districts have basically no say in making decisions on which capital projects should be funded first. Years ago, they did have more say – but they also had to put capital plans to referendum for voter approval. That system was abolished in the early 1970s, by necessity, because people simply would not come out and vote on the issue.

The province is now telling school districts that they need to come up with significant amounts of capital for new projects. The problem with this is that growing school districts have little or no capital available to them.

The province is trying to keep its own capital costs down, and while that is a responsible action, it’s pretty hard to justify in areas like Surrey where growth is ongoing and dramatic.

McNally points out that 1,000 new residents move to Surrey each month. The birth rate in the two Surrey-area hospitals, Surrey Memorial and Peace Arch, is close to 4,000 per year.

Almost all those babies will be attending Surrey schools within the next five years – as will thousands of other kids who parents do not live here today.

There are 6,000 students in portable classrooms in Surrey right now. That’s considerably more than are enrolled in many B.C. school districts.

The city needs to back the school district for two reasons. One is its own responsibility. Surrey is a pro-development city, and there are lots of development projects underway. The city is encouraging new residents to move here, but they aren’t getting a fair deal if their kids miss out on some aspects of education because of overcrowding or lack of new school construction.

The second reason is that the city has a considerable amount of moral persuasion with the current government. Most, if not all, councillors back the B.C. Liberals, including Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who is the Surrey-Fleetwood MLA. If city council speaks up on this issue, chances are it will be listened to.

The provincial government points out that it’s spent about $300 million on capital projects, land and seismic upgrades in Surrey since 2001. However, capital spending needs to continue at a steady level.

McNally is taking her title of trustee seriously. As one entrusted to look out for the education needs of Surrey students, she believes it is imperative to do everything possible to improve their education. That includes building new schools and funding additions in a timely fashion.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

 

Just Posted

Sisters, sexual abuse and one Surrey family’s bond in new movie ‘Because We Are Girls’

Cloverdale’s Jeeti Pooni led effort to create the documentary, set to debut at festivals

Surrey Historical Society holds ‘memory social’ Sunday

Gathering will be a chance to offer, share stories

Drowning victim fondly remembered

Immigration consultant Jay Atienza Razon, who worked out of Newton, drowned in a kayaking accident March 29

Khan Michael Bourne, of Sechelt, shot dead in Surrey

Police say Bourne was found laying on the ground, with gunshot wounds

VIDEO: Surrey RCMP investigating after ‘sudden death’ of man found with critical injuries

Police say a man is dead after being found laying on the ground in the 13300-block of 114th Avenue

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

VIDEO: Vanouver Giants come back to earn 4-3 overtime victory

Playing in Spokane for the second consecutive night, the G-Men triumph put them 3-1 in the playoffs

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read