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Surrey school district wants province to pay for portables

The population in Surrey is exploding and schools aren’t being built fast enough to keep up.

Each time a portable is needed, the Surrey School Board uses its operating budget to pay roughly $350,000 to set one up. That money is meant for staffing and programs, such as French immersion, EKOlogy and the Intensive Fine Arts Academy.

“That money should be used to help students throughout their educational time during in our schools. And when we're spending it on portables, obviously isn't being spent in the classroom where it should be,” said Gary Tymoschuk, vice-chair of the Surrey School Board.

The school board has 361 portables and anticipates adding 30 more, with plans to move 39 portables to manage projected enrolment growth.

Moving the portables will be a costly endeavour, estimated at $4.8 million, further stretching the school district’s operating dollars.

“Portables are costly to buy, they're costly to set up and to relocate when and if necessary. Our motion is to ask that the provincial government pay for those costs,” Tymoschuk explained.

An annual general meeting is underway for provincial school trustees, where the motion will be introduced.

Some schools have more than a dozen portables, prompting the school district to get innovative.

“There’s only so much land and we’re exploring the idea of double-decker portables,” Tymoschuk said.

Parent Fallon Vickers doesn’t understand why portables are constantly being used, especially for her children’s school, which is fairly new.

Edgewood Elementary opened in 2021. It currently has seven portables and eight more will be added in the coming months.

“This is something that could have been avoidable and that space could be used for other things that are more beneficial to the students,” Vickers said. “They know what density is coming. They know what the land has been zoned for, whether it's single-family homes or high-density high rises.”

She said the portables aren’t convenient because bathrooms are in the main building and they take up the space on the gravel fields, which the students could be using for outdoor activities.

In 2017, John Horgan promised to get rid of all the portables.

BC United Party leader Kevin Falcon said the issue has since gotten worse.

“The problem is the NDP said they would eliminate all portables within four years. They’ve actually doubled the number of portables in Surrey, and now they’ve gotten so bad because of the lack of execution and lack of new funding,” Falcon said.

Education Minister Rachna Singh acknowledges the unprecedented growth in Surrey and the need to accommodate surging enrollment.

“Since 2017, we have been building schools. We have more than 20,000 seats created. For Surrey also, we are on par to create 10,000 seats and 400 new classrooms. We are very committed and that’s what our capital budget reflects and that’s what we will keep on working on,” she said.

But Singh did not say if there are any new schools slated to be built.

She said she will be meeting with the Surrey School Board in June and September to see what the needs are.


This story has been updated to correct the name of the elementary school that opened in 2021. It is Edgewood Elementary, not Edgemont Elementary. Top Stories

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