We are letting students and parents down when we don’t keep up with enrollment growth: Councillor Linda Annis
Surrey, B.C. (November 15, 2023): Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis is writing today to the Minister of Education, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education, and Mayor of the City of Surrey, urging an immediate Surrey education summit in the face of increasing enrollment, additional portables, and too few new schools under construction.
“Once again this year, the number of new students who showed up for classes was far higher than projected by either the city or the school board,” said Annis. “The fact is, twice as many new students showed up than projected, which says there is clearly something wrong with the modelling being used. When you don’t even come close to the real number it’s time to change how you calculate the numbers. At the same time, while new schools are planned or being built, we are not catching up. Fact is, we are falling farther behind as this year’s enrollment numbers clearly show. Even the school board says there are now as many Surrey students in portables as some cities have students in actual classrooms. At the same time, some of those portables do not even have heat as we head into winter. We can and must do better, but it will take the province, city, and school board working together to make things right.”
Annis said she wants a summit that brings together the provincial government, city hall, and board of education, together with parents, experts in P3 education partnerships, and local developers who can help with new schools, particularly creative solutions along the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain line.
Annis added this week’s announcement by the provincial government, that 875 new spaces are being added to existing schools is good news but does not come close to the new schools and spaces Surrey needs, particularly when the school district already has some 400 portables currently in use.
“Four hundred portables amount to some 8,000 students, so 875 new school spaces is really a drop in the bucket for a the largest school population in the province,” noted Annis. “We need to do more and we need to do it faster, because at this rate we’re not catching up, we’re barely treading water.”
“No one group has all the answers, but we need innovation and a serious increase in school funding for our city,” Annis said. “We were told to expect about 1500 new students this year, instead we had 3000. We consistently miss enrollment projections, which means we are dramatically underestimating growth and demand for spots in our schools. We need decision makers in the same room, hearing the same numbers, and understanding that growth in Surrey isn’t a passing fad, it’s our city’s reality today and for the foreseeable future.”
Annis said the lack of current school infrastructure also brings into question the provincial government’s plans to allow up to four homes on a single lot, or six homes on a single lot if located in a transit corridor.
“The lack of schools in Surrey only makes people question what would happen if we had a serious spike in population as single-family lots suddenly had multiple families living on them,” explained Annis. “We cannot manage what we have today, so how would we cope if we added another 20,000 students? We need better planning and better funding, as well as a frank and serious conversation about education in our growing city. To put it in the language of the new provincial grading system, we are emerging, because we are definitely not proficient or extending.”