Start of school year reinforces how far behind Surrey is in new schools: Councillor Linda Annis
Surrey, B.C. (September 5, 2023): Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis wants schools and daycares built into new developments and towers along the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route.
“As we start the new school year this week, we’re all reminded that Surrey’s growth now, and over the next 20 years, means we are in desperate need of new schools, not more portables,” said Annis. “It looks like we will have 400 portables this year and stacking them is being considered to save space, but we shouldn’t allow that to be our long-term solution. City hall, our school board, and the provincial government need to work together to get creative, and one of the solutions I want us to consider is building schools into the developments and towers already being planned for the SkyTrain route along Fraser Highway. Imagine having a school and daycare in a cluster of condo towers where the walk to school is a short elevator ride.”
Annis said nearly 200,000 people are expected to live along the new SkyTrain corridor, and with land at a premium, creative school projects need to be considered from day one.
“Whether it’s building schools into new residential towers and developments, public-private partnerships that get schools built faster, or building schools that are multi-storey so they require less land, but take advantage of local parks and recreation centres, we need to look at how we can be more creative to deliver more schools,” added Annis. “There’s nothing saying we can’t do something innovative and different along the SkyTrain route, particularly if it ensures we have the right number of schools so we can stop this addiction to portables. Over the past few years, we have consistently underestimated the number of new students in our city and the result is a growing number of portables. I want our city and the province to look at how we can incorporate new urban schools into SkyTrain developments, including having a school and daycare considered part of a development project’s community amenity contribution, with a neighbourhood school and daycare at ground level, serving a cluster of towers. I think it would be a terrific selling feature for the development, the neighbourhood and our city.”
Annis said while last week’s announcement from the provincial government about added seats and improvements in Surrey schools was good news, much more is needed.
“Frankly, we’re playing catch up and we’re not doing a very good job at it,” said Annis. “Surrey has become the school portable capital of the country, and that’s not the sort of distinction I want for our city or families. We know the SkyTrain route is coming, we know thousands of new families are going to live along the route, and we know we’re already short of schools, so let’s get creative from day one and look at what we need to do as a city, school board and province to make sure creative solutions are built into these upcoming residential developments. The development of the new SkyTrain route is a terrific opportunity to think outside of the box and look at innovative school solutions that fit the sort of new developments we’re going to see along Fraser Highway that will be shaped by SkyTrain.”