Surrey Schools to get $217 Million for Capital Projects – By Ray Hudson

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Education Minister Mike Bernier and Surrey Board Chair Shawn Wilson sign the memorandum of understanding with the terms of reference for the Surrey Executive Project Board.

Project Board will plan up to 5,200 New Seats 

Education Minister Mike Bernier and Surrey Board Chair Shawn Wilson sign the memorandum of understanding with the terms of reference for the Surrey Executive Project Board.
Education Minister Mike Bernier and Surrey Board Chair Shawn Wilson sign the memorandum of understanding with the terms of reference for the Surrey Executive Project Board.

Recognizing the Surrey school population growth will continue at a thousand children per year, the BC Government has committed $217 million over three years to the Surrey School District, to fund the necessary capital works. The projects are to be planned and led by a newly created Surrey Executive Project Board which will be comprised of staff from the School District, Partnerships BC and the Ministry of Education.

“Our board has been working very hard with the Ministry of Education to address the unique needs in the Surrey School District driven by our incredible growth,” said Shawn Wilson, School Board Chair. “Trustees want to break the pattern of perpetual pursuit of classroom spaces, and we’re proud to now have this significant capital funding and the dedicated partnership project office that will help get us there.”
“We are now in the best position we’ve ever to get ahead of enrolment growth in the Surrey School District,” said Wilson.

The Project board will include staff from the Surrey School District, Partnerships BC, and the

Ministry of Education. The project team will include a project director, financial manager, city liaison, project managers and project technicians. The board may also consult engineering, planning, environmental and architectural experts as needed.

“Our work will continue now in a far more focused way,” said Wilson, “and be collaborative and with the support of the City of Surrey, to have new school additions and new schools in place before we get to the point of over-crowding with the portable classroom farms that our students staff and parents are dealing with in some neighbourhoods today.”

MLAs Stephanie Cadieux, Marvin Hunt and Peter Fassbender, Minister Mike Bernier, Board Chair Shawn Wilson, School Trustees Garry Thind, Laurie Larsen, Bob Holmes and Terry Allen.
MLAs Stephanie Cadieux, Marvin Hunt and Peter Fassbender, Minister Mike Bernier, Board Chair Shawn Wilson, School Trustees Garry Thind, Laurie Larsen, Bob Holmes and Terry Allen.

Currently, about 7,000 students, the equivalent of the entire New Westminster school district,

attend classes in some two hundred and seventy-five portable classrooms.

When asked about priorities, Wilson identified the current five year rolling capital project plans as getting the priority as the initial focus of their work including Clayton and Grandview elementary schools, but when the overview is done, they will be able to better identify what schools will need additions and where new schools need to be built.

This past week, a coalition of parents, activists and the Surrey Board of Trade issued a desperate plea to the B.C. Government for more funding, saying half of Surrey’s 120 elementary and high schools are operating over-capacity. The Surrey School Coalition said the province should build one new elementary school a year and a new high school every two or three years to accommodate the growing population. On Wednesday of this week, the coalition met with the Education Minister asking for $175 million for twelve priority schools. The response today exceeded that, and resulted in a comment of appreciation by the Surrey District Advisory Council President, Karen Tan.
The Surrey Board of Trade said they were pleased with the announcement. CEO, Anita Huberman, cited the project board “as a key ingredient to oversee, and determine priorities in Surrey and is integral to ensure that our students move out of portables.”

Opposition MLA’s Sue Hammell and Bruce Ralston agreed that the money is welcome but said it was “hard not to be a little bit cynical when three months before an election we’re supposed to believe that suddenly Christy Clark cares about Surrey students and Surrey families and building more schools here. It doesn’t ring true.”

According to the Ministry of Education, since 2013-14, about 6,700 new student spaces had been opened or approved in Surrey, and in addition to today’s announcement, $529 million for 70 capital and seismic projects and 14 site acquisitions had been conducted in Surrey since 2001.