British Columbia to create 5,200 additional seats in Surrey schools

By The Canadian Press
January 26, 2017 - 1:44pm

SURREY, B.C. — Space for up to 5,200 students will be created over the next three years in Surrey, the largest and fastest-growing school district in British Columbia.

Education Minister Mike Bernier said Thursday that $217 million has been set aside for capital projects to add the spaces in the Surrey School District.

A newly created Surrey executive project board will oversee the projects, identifying new schools or school expansions so the work can begin as quickly as possible.

Funding for the project has already been set aside in the 2017 budget, Bernier said.

“What we’ve done here is different,” he said. “We’ve recognized, and we all acknowledge, that the funds are needed, the money is needed to build these schools.”

Bernier did not say who will serve on the board, but added it will be made up of school board staff, Education Ministry officials and specialists — such as engineers, anthropologists and others — whose expertise is required to ensure quick construction once projects are approved.

School officials in Surrey have said 7,000 students are taught in portable classrooms.

The Surrey School Coalition, made up of developers, members of the local board of trade and parent advisory councils, recently estimated public school enrolment will grow by 1,000 students annually.

Bernier met with the coalition on Tuesday, when it asked for $174 million to address overcrowding in schools.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said the new funding will help address the critical need of new schools for the rapidly growing community.

Bernier credited his ministry’s “strong relationship” with the Surrey board for moving forward on his announcement as he compared it to the Vancouver School Board, which he fired last fall over budget concerns.

“You’re going to see in Surrey, because of the good work that this school board is going to do working with the project office, you’re going to see new schools being built,” he said Thursday. “Vancouver was a different story. There was too much politics being played there.”

The minister appointed a single trustee in Vancouver for one year amid concerns from parents about seismic upgrading of schools.

“One of the things I would say to the people in Vancouver is, we have stability in the school system and government is committed to moving forward with the seismic upgrades,” he said.

“There won’t be the political games anymore. There’s going to be projects happening.”

The province says the new funding in Surrey is on top of $100 million announced last year to build a new secondary and elementary school, expand three elementary schools and purchase land for a future elementary school.

The Canadian Press

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