Surrey's school system now nearing the use of 400 portable structures

May 16 2023, 8:15 pm

Surrey’s elected officials are renewing their calls for the provincial government to urgently increase its funding to drastically escalate the pace of building purpose-built conventional structures for the community’s rapidly growing school capacity needs.

Mayor Brenda Locke says the worsening capacity issues and the ever-growing over-dependency on the use of portable structures, which were only intended to be a stopgap measure, have led Surrey City Council to declare a “state of school infrastructure a crisis.”

City Council on Monday voted to direct City staff to organize a meeting between the City, Surrey School District (SSD), and the Minister of Housing and Minister of Education and Child Care to “remediate this crisis situation immediately.”

According to the City, there could be almost 400 portables at public schools across Surrey by September 2024. Currently, Surrey School District uses 361 portables, and it has plans to spend $7.2 million this summer to move 56 portables to accommodate growth in various areas. Furthermore, SSD has plans to acquire 30 more portables for the next school year.

When Daily Hive Urbanized last reported on this issue in early 2019, Surrey’s public school system used 333 portables, which accommodated roughly about 10% of the population of 73,000 students at the time.

Since September 2023, the school district has seen its enrolment grow by over 2,200 students, bringing its total student population to 78,000 — about 5,000 more students since just before the pandemic. The City states enrolment is forecast to grow at a rapid pace in almost every community, exacerbating many schools that are already far over capacity due to Surrey’s continued high population growth.

“The pressure to create more housing cannot be done in isolation. Core infrastructure such as schools must be built in lock step with new housing,” said Locke.

“I know the Board of Education has continually advocated for funding from the Province, but we’re not seeing the action that our community so desperately needs. We know that without rapid investment, our schools are facing a dire situation. We need action and investment in building more schools in Surrey now.”

walnut road elementary school surrey

The large cluster of portable structures at Walnut Road Elementary School. (Google Maps)

TE Scott Elementary School Surrey

Example of portables at TE Scott Elementary School in Surrey. (Google Maps)

Earlier this year, there were also suggestions the school district could resort to buying double-decker portables due to not only growing demand but the increasing lack of suitable open space on public school sites to accommodate the typical configuration of single-storey structures — without having to remove open space for student sports and recreational activities.

“We are all committed to ensuring that every student in our district has access to an engaging and quality learning environment in their neighbourhood,” said Gary Tymoschuk,  the vice chair of the Surrey Board of Education.

“Over the past several years, our school district has been facing a significant increase in student enrollment resulting in an urgent need for more classroom space. Portables are a short-term solution to quickly accommodate our growing student population, but this is not a sustainable solution due to cost and space limitations.”

Surrey officials suggest the provincial government needs to increase capital investments to expand existing school buildings and build brand-new standalone schools. According to SSD, it received approval on two additions creating a combined total capacity expansion of 700 seats, but this is far from what is actually required.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ News
+ Real Estate
+ Development
+ Politics
+ City Hall
+ Urbanized