Overcrowding adds to school woes in Surrey
Students across B.C. are feeling the impact of the teachers' dispute, but overcrowding and underfunding are adding to the crunch in the province's largest school district.
The Surrey School District says attendance is up by between 500 and 1,000 students and the teachers' work-to-rule action is adding pressure to a district already bursting at the seams.
Spokesman Doug Strachan works shifts as a crossing guard to ease the burden of duties affected by the job action.
"I enjoy it, but there's an impact not just on me, but on all the managers, the superintendents, any non-union member helping out," he said.
Strachan said the problem is intensified because of overcrowding.
"The demand for a new elementary and secondary school is still there," he said.
Surrey's biggest school, Earl Marriott Secondary, has more than 1,900 students this year.
To offset overcrowding, junior and senior students attend classes and take their lunch in shifts.
Principal Peter Johnson believes the school can't continue this way for much longer.
"The infrastructure, the washrooms, the facilities, it really takes a strong toll on them. It's not built for this number," said Peter Johnson.
Last year, former minister of education Margaret McDiarmid promised to reduce the number of portables on Surrey's school grounds, but instead the number of portables has increased by about two dozen to 255 units.
Education Minister George Abbott doesn't promise there will be any relief soon.
"My ministry's working very closely with the Treasury Board to try to ensure that appropriate investments are made in Surrey, because we do respect that there is a need for incremental investment there," he said.
Meanwhile, BC Teachers' Federation President Susan Lambert says negotiations with the province haven't gained much ground since the start of the school year.
"We're hard at it. I can't report any progress as of yet, but we're trying," she said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Julia Foy