To control the booming enrollment in Surrey’s classrooms, the school district says it’s considering longer days, multiple semesters, and even night classes.
Ritinder Matthew, associate director of communications with the Surrey School District, says the situation in Surrey is dire.
“Right now, the way our facilities stand, we can’t accommodate any more growth,” she said. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve been averaging around 800 new students every year, but past two years, we’re averaging 2,400 new students every school year.”
In an interview with OMNI, Matthew says the Surrey School District sent parents and staff a survey on 12 different enrollment management strategies.
Those strategies include building pre-fabricated classrooms, bussing kids to schools outside their neighbourhoods, adding fully online classes for high schoolers, and creating split days, where some students go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and others from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sakshi Khanna, co-chair for the Walnut Grove Elementary Parent Advisory Council, says the idea of splitting school days up is not a permanent solution.
“It’s just creating more of a burden on the parents and putting more pressure on the kids,” Khanna said.
She says having to tell kids they’re staying home in the morning and going to school in the afternoon to learn, when they may be tired, is simply not viable for parents or kids.
In Surrey, it’s not uncommon for schools to have multiple portables to accommodate the overflow of students.
Mayor Brenda Locke says capacity has been an issue for decades and it has finally come to a tipping point.
“We cannot tolerate this any longer in Surrey,” she said. “We’ve had two meetings… with the minister, with the school district and council saying ‘you have to build more schools.’ The only way out of this is to build more schools. No more band-aid solutions.”
Minister of Education and Childcare Rachna Singh says 4,700 more seats for students are in the works.
“We are in discussions of acquiring more land, but at this time we have two sites already marked for new schools,” Singh said. “But we are also working on new innovative ideas, like last week’s announcement of pre-fabricated classrooms.”
Meanwhile, parents say the government needs to pick up the pace if its serious about investing in kids.
“If they want to, they can fast-track the building of the schools in the neighbourhood,” Khanna said. “Surrey is one of the biggest growing cities throughout Canada, and if we’re not investing in it, I don’t know what the future holds.”