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Some Surrey high schools moving to extended day schedules this fall

Lockers in a school hallway. (Shutterstock) Lockers in a school hallway. (Shutterstock)
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Students at some Surrey high schools will have a new schedule next fall as the district moves towards an extended day program.

The Surrey school board heard a presentation at its meeting Wednesday night, outlining a plan to mitigate capacity pressures at its high schools.

"As the board is very well aware, we are in a very significant growth at this point in time and that is certainly causing pressure for us when it comes to utilization of schools and ensuring that we have adequate space for students," Supt. Mark Pearmain said during the meeting. "We are expecting a significant growth cycle again for next year, anywhere from 2,200 to 2,600 students arriving has forced our hand when it comes to making decisions of extended day schedules at secondary schools."

An extended schedule includes five class periods in a day, rather than four. For the most part, students will be in class from periods one through four, or from periods two through five, meaning they'll either start their day later or end it earlier than some of their peers. Trustees heard this will help increase school capacity by about 10 to 15 per cent.

Deputy Supt. Andrew Holland told the board some of the benefits of an extended day include slightly more flexible schedules for some students and more access to speciality areas of the schools, like theatres or home economics rooms.

But there are several downsides, Holland warned, including the schedule being disruptive for families and school communities. It could also interfere with extracurricular activities and athletics scheduling, while also bringing added costs for extra staffing or bus routes.

It's not the first time Surrey has tried an extended day program. In 2011, the schedule was tested at two high schools and led to rallies and petitions from parents.

"There was a lot of people really upset about extended days because while there is some flexibility for some people, it's not a good solution but it's where we're at now," Trustee Bob Holmes said.

If no new schools are built and capacity pressures continue, Holland said, schedule changes might need to go even further. Holland said future options might include more online learning or year-round, tri-semester programs.

Holland said up to one third of high schools in the district could be transitioned to extended days by September 2024. Decisions are still being made on which schools would be impacted, with more information expected in the next two or three weeks. 

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