I can’t stop thinking about a recent decision by the Surrey School Board.
Trustees voted to relocate two programs: the French Immersion program from Lord Tweedsmuir to the new Salish Secondary when it opens in 2018, and the Inter-A program from Kwantlen Park to Queen Elizabeth Secondary.
I understand the logic behind the moves. But the context of the situation is what has me upset – and I can’t seem to shake it.
The impetus for both moves is extreme overcrowding. Lord Tweedsmuir, with a capacity of 1,400, currently has 2,055 students. Kwantlen Park has 1,536 students, well over its capacity of 1,200.
The school board’s stance is that space issues must be addressed.
“We get that people get agitated and upset when you’re moving schools,” Shawn Wilson told the Now earlier this month before the decision was made.
“Kids get comfortable in a school, they have their friends…. It’s something we understand is difficult to accept but the board is required to provide space for people who live in the catchment area.”
Sometimes, Wilson added, “moving the program is really the only sensible or logical thing to do.”
I can appreciate that.
But having been a student in a “choice” program, I can speak to how much the relocations will impact the students involved.
I attended the Inter-A program at Kwantlen Park, which is being moved to Q.E. This program is a community, a family. Offered to high school students, it provides leadership opportunities while offering all the usual academic courses.
Students also have a chance to work on special activities and projects. Many choose the program because they like the smaller environment and Inter-A “encourages the development of socially responsible students within a co-operative learning environment,” according to its website.
I’m told of the roughly 180 students in the program, only about 50 will be able to make the move to Queen Elizabeth to continue.
I feel for the more than 100 students who will simply not be able to get themselves to Queen Elizabeth Secondary, where the program will be moved to.
I can only imagine the instability and interruption this will create in a student’s learning experience. And, they’ve lost out on all that program has to offer – and take it from me, it’s a lot.
It’s safe to assume the same would apply to those in the French Immersion program.
Surrey’s Cindy Dalglish has been a driving force of opposition to the French Immersion move – and an advocate for all of the school district’s overcrowding troubles.
“How can we tell our students to invest their energies into these programs… if we aren’t investing and providing the stability for them ourselves?” Dalglish said after the decision.
“It’s simply ludicrous to think that our children will thrive in an environment where stability is not at the forefront.”
While the school district notes its responsibility to the students in the catchment area, Dalglish says that “the majority of families purchase their homes in their school catchment of choice” where these programs are offered.
Compounding her frustration is that she expects the French Immersion program in question will move a second time.
“The French Immersion feeder schools are close and on the other side of Lord Tweedmsuir Secondary,” said Dalglish. “Within a few short years, Salish Secondary will be overcrowded and then the French Immersion program will be moved again.”
A logical assumption, of course, given school overcrowding woes show no end in sight.
Regardless of future dilemmas, the current decision has been made.
This just seems to be yet another case of Surrey’s overcrowding impacting children negatively.
And why are we in this spot?
We’re simply growing too fast.
Infrastructure is not keeping up.
My message to Surrey council? Please, please slow things down.
And to the province? Cough up more money. And quickly. This simply isn’t right.
This community’s children – who should come first – are paying the price.
Amy Reid is staff writer with the Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.