1 in 10 students in Surrey school district learning in portable structures

Feb 25 2019, 10:43 pm

While the Vancouver School Board is returning to the debate over whether it should close select schools due to low enrolment, Surrey School District (SSD) continues to struggle with keeping up with the municipality’s explosive demand for school seats.

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In fact, according to the SSD, there are currently 333 portables in use and it is anticipated an additional 20 to 25 portables will be required in 2020.

Approximately 7,000 out of 73,000 students within the school district are educated in a portable structure, equivalent to nearly one in 10 students.

To date, portables have been the only quick way to accommodate the rapidly growing enrolment of 1,000 additional students per year.

Doug Strachan, a spokesperson for SSD, told Daily Hive portables still provide “comfortable learning environments” but they are inefficient to operate and create some challenges when students and staff must walk outside to get to the main school building for some classes, the gymnasium, and library.

In some cases, students in a portable need to go through an outdoor environment to reach a washroom, although some schools include portable-based ‘washcarts’ with their portable classrooms.

“There can be overcrowding in school common areas like hallways, cafeterias, libraries…. From a facilities point of view, portables are inefficient to operate and maintain, among other challenges,” he said.

Currently, about 7,000 new student seats have been announced and are at various stages of planning or construction, and a recently created Capital Project Office by the SSD, City of Surrey, and the provincial government helps expedite construction funding, property purchases, building permits, and other processes.

“The solution is to accelerate the process of approvals, land acquisitions, design, permitting and construction… we’re starting to see the fruition of that work this year.”

If all goes as planned with construction, 200 additional permanent elementary seats will open later this year, followed by another 750 seats next year.

Then in 2021, at least 1,255 permanent elementary seats and 700 permanent high school seats should be ready.

A number of new and expansion school projects have not been assigned an opening date, and several existing schools are slated for seismic refurbishment.

New Surrey school projects as of February 2019

Construction underway:

  • Site 137 Panorama Park Elementary
    • Address: 12878 62 Avenue
    • Capacity: 200 additional seats to existing school
    • Completion and opening: September 2019
  • Site 134 Pacific Heights Elementary
    • Address: 17148 26 Avenue
    • Capacity: 300 additional seats to existing school
    • Completion and opening: April 2020
  • Site 184 Maddaugh Road Elementary
    • Address: 19405 76 Avenue
    • Capacity:  600-seat new school
    • Completion and opening: January 2021
  • Site 206 Edgewood Drive Elementary
    • Address: 16666 23 Avenue
    • Capacity: 655-seat new school
    • Completion and opening: January 2021

Contractor awarded:

  • Site 177 Grandview Heights Secondary
    • Address: 16987 25 Avenue
    • Capacity: 1,500-seat new school
    • Completion and opening: TBA

Design phase:

  • Site 021 Sullivan Elementary
    • Address: 6016 152 Street
    • Capacity: 200 additional seats to existing school
    • Completion and opening: September 2020
  • Site 218 Regent Road Elementary
    • Address: 17325 2 Avenue
    • Capacity: 605-seat new school
    • Completion and opening: TBA
  • Site 157 Coyote Creek Elementary
    • Address: 8131 156 Street
    • Capacity: 100 additional seats to existing school
    • Completion and opening: September 2020
  • Site 160 Ecole Frost Road Elementary
    • Address: 8606 162 Street
    • Capacity: 150 additional seats to existing school
    • Completion and opening: September 2020
  • Site 164 Sullivan Heights Secondary
    • Address: 6248 144 Street
    • Capacity: 700 additional seats to existing school
    • Completion and opening: September 2021

Planning phase:

  • Site 207 Sunnyside Heights Elementary
    • Address: 1960 165A Street
    • Capacity: 605-seat new school
    • Completion and opening: TBA
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