Back to school is almost a season in itself, bringing change not unlike the normal start of spring, summer, fall and winter.
For some, back to school may serve as a reminder to us of the many challenges we face in Surrey. Portables – 347 to be exact – dot the landscape as the district struggles to keep up with the city’s unprecedented growth.
Not helping the situation is the province’s outdated policy of not even accepting applications for new schools or projects until the students are already here.
But there’s a lot to be appreciative of as our young students return to class this year.
For one, the school year opened with a new secondary school in Clayton. By all accounts, the 825 students and 60 staff members at the $55.2-million Ecole Salish Secondary are in for a treat as they jump into a new school year inside a beautiful new state-of-the-art building.
The school features “modern learning spaces” that support B.C.’s new curriculum, according to the Ministry of Education. It includes a theatre, two gymnasiums, fitness rooms, a large open-concept student common area and several outdoor and rooftop social spaces.
It even has a robotics program. How cool is that?
And in Newton, a 200-seat addition at Newton’s Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary has brought that school’s capacity to 640.
Plus, there are signs of hope in terms of Surrey’s portable issue.
Education Minister Rob Fleming told us in late August that his government is “looking to turn the corner” and start eliminating portables “aggressively” in Surrey.
“The previous government didn’t fund nearly enough site acquisitions, and it’s very expensive to do that retroactively in built-out developments, but that’s what we’re having to do,” said Fleming.
“Following that, we’ll be looking at funding future enrolment projections, because growth has been a known challenge in Surrey. It’s been steady, and almost each and every year exactly what it was predicted to be.”
That change in policy would be huge for Surrey and it seems it may be in the works.
Finally, challenges aside, let’s remember that opportunities have never been greater for our students. They are receiving exposure to resources and materials that weren’t available to the same extent for previous generations.
Simply put, students leaving our schools are better prepared for what lies ahead than ever before.
And that is truly something to be grateful for.