LETTER: As minister of education, I am making Surrey schools a top priority

We are very committed to reducing the number of portables and to make sure our children are learning in proper classrooms.

The Editor,

Re: “Big portable promises enticed Surrey votes – so what’s the plan?” the Now-Leader, Aug. 31.

Your recent editorial regarding the increase in portables at Surrey’s schools highlights a problem our government is committed to resolving. I’ve been working with my fellow MLAs on this issue, and continue to work with Surrey MLAs to develop solutions.

I recently visited Surrey to tour the district along with the superintendent, board chair and members of the board. While there, I saw the new Salish secondary school currently under construction which is adding 1,500 new spaces for students, but I also saw how schools in the area are experiencing serious portable pressures.

I realize there has been an increase in the number of portables in Surrey’s schools this fall as we increase class spaces to comply with the Memorandum of Agreement with the BCTF, and also because of growing enrollment.

Our first priority is to make sure students are getting the support they need in classrooms this fall. This is a transitional year as districts work to implement the BCTF agreement and there are some unique situations and challenges.

But I am committed to making sure that the use of portables to address growth pressures is not a long-term solution. I want to see the number of portables reduced as quickly as possible.

The Ministry of Education will work collaboratively with local government and the school district in Surrey to speed up timeframes for new school construction – we all have a role to play in this.

We are currently reviewing the district’s five year capital plan and are looking at how we can improve the approvals process to increase the pace of school construction from green light to ground breaking.

It’s important that with enrollment in Surrey growing by about 1,000 new kids every year that we get ahead of the curve. We are making Surrey’s schools a top priority for our government as we move forward.

We are very committed to reducing the number of portables and to make sure our children are learning in proper classrooms.

Rob Fleming, B.C. Minister of Education

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