I have to tip my hat this week to independent Surrey school trustee Laurae McNally who has called for city council to temporarily suspend development applications in areas of massive growth until our most crowded schools have time to catch up.
And kudos to the rest of Surrey’s board of education that unanimously passed her motion.
This newspaper has published numerous articles and opinion pieces on the negative effects of rapid growth. I myself penned a column last November titled ‘Surrey’s grow-at-all-costs strategy hurting students.’
One of the areas McNally suggests we halt growth in happens to be where I live. Grandview in South Surrey.
I regularly jog around my neighbourhood and it’s impossible to miss townhouse after townhouse complex popping up. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against townhouses. Heck, I live in one.
It’s a form of housing that’s affordable for a young family such as mine. And this is a desirable area. Close to the beach. Plenty of amenities within walking distance.
No wonder developers are cashing in. We want to be there.
But at what point does growth become a negative, not a positive? And are we past that point in some areas of Surrey?
The catchment boundary I live in will have my children going to Sunnyside Elementary. In case you missed it, Peace Arch News revealed last week that Sunnyside is so overcrowded it’s projected to have five – maybe even six – kindergarten classes next fall.
Six. Yes, you read that right.
On top of that, the school will need four new portables.
My son currently attends school in North Delta, where we used to live. There were two kindergarten classes at the time he entered school – and no portables.
The prospect of transferring him into a school that’s this overcrowded frightens me. He has so many wonderful supports in his current school and I worry in a school that’s overcapacity, he’ll fall through the cracks.
Then there’s child care. It’s going to be a heck of a lot more expensive in South Surrey than North Delta. That I anticipated, but what I didn’t anticipate is that it would be so tough to find a spot at all, price tag aside. And I just learned the Montessori daycare that operated out of Sunnyside is closing at the end of this school year.
Plus, I’ve yet to find any daycare providers that will cater to my school-aged son and my toddler.
I’ll be looking at two drop offs, and two pick ups. Wonderful. (Good business opportunity here, cough cough.)
So there are more kids, but less child care spots? Hmm.
Growth isn’t bad, nor is development. But at some point it has to be time to draw the line.
Something’s gotta give.
We can blame the province for not forking out enough money to build the new schools and additions Surrey needs – and so we should – but as McNally has pointed out, city council has a responsibility here as well.
They’re the ones approving the new townhouses that are popping up left, right and centre in my neighbourhood.
School board chair Shawn Wilson said without some relief, the district may have to consider “extreme measures” such as having morning and afternoon “shifts” at some schools. French immersion and fine arts programs could be cut, too, he added.
That’s what it has come to?
As district spokesman Doug Strachan told Peace Arch News, “Short of telling young families you can’t move here, we’re doing all we can.”
Separate from the school board’s request, a petition has been launched calling on Minister of Education Mike Bernier and all of city council to “suspend all new developments in Surrey until the BC government funds new schools at pace.”
Will city hall answer that call and stop approving new developments in the affected neighbourhoods?
(They’re Grandview/South Surrey, South Newton and Clayton, by the way.)
Time will tell.
Amy Reid is staff writer with the Now. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org