Playground time rationed out at overcrowded Surrey schools
Published Friday, May 6, 2016 4:41PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, May 6, 2016 6:35PM PDT
Overcrowding at some Surrey schools has gotten so bad that children’s playtime is rationed – with some students only able to play on the playgrounds a couple days a week.
Certain grades at Katzie Elementary in Clayton Heights, for example, can only access the playground on a schedule, which is strictly enforced by teachers.
“For Grade 3 and up we only get to go on the playground two days a week,” said Olivia, a Grade 4 student.
If they try to get on the playground when it’s not their turn, Olivia added, they get in trouble.
“It’s kind of sad. I like the playground,” she said.
That’s the case at about a dozen schools in Surrey, said school board chair Shawn Wilson.
“It’s an unfortunate consequence and it defines what overcapacity looks like,” Wilson told CTV News.
At Katzie Elementary, there are some 722 students crammed into a space designed for about 600. It’s one of many schools in Surrey that are over capacity, most in the Newton and Clayton Heights areas.
They’re dealing with a wave of new children from new developments in the area, with families attracted to cheaper townhouses far from the expensive single-family homes in the City of Vancouver.
And more homes are going up – prompting the school board to issue an unusual plea to the city, which controls development, to stop allowing new builds.
Wilson said there’s little else the school board can do – because while the school board and the city do work together to locate sites for new schools, he doesn’t have the final say on whether they get built.
That belongs to the provincial government, which tends to wait until the last minute to build new schools to save money. Rather than focus on building new schools, the province has encouraged school districts to close under capacity schools and operate at 95 per cent efficiency.
Katzie Elementary, for example, is only a two years old.
It’s the same story in Vancouver’s, where condominiums have proved attractive to families, either because they are more affordable, families are unexpectedly attracted to urban life, or because childless couples found they could not afford to move.
There, schools like Elsie Roy, Henry Hudson, False Creek, and Simon Fraser are over capacity. Some relief is on the horizon with the construction of International Village Elementary, but Vancouver School Board chair Mike Lombardi said by the time the province builds it, it will be over capacity too.
“They want to see the whites of pupils’ eyes,” he said. “It’s always about two years behind. As soon as it’s opened it’s already oversubscribed.”