Concerned parents launch petition, call for action on overcrowding at Surrey elementary school

Parents are calling on the superintendent of the school district and the Minister of Education and Childcare to speed up the delivery of promised portables and find long-term expansion solutions at Walnut Road Elementary School. Kate Walker reports.

By Kate Walker and Pippa Norman

A petition surfaced Thursday calling for officials to take action on overcrowding at Walnut Road Elementary School in Surrey.

The school is one of many in the district that concerned parents say is overpopulated, and where portables are being used as a short-term solution to squeeze students in.

Parents who created the online petition are calling on the Superintendent of the Surrey School District and the Minister of Education and Childcare to speed up the delivery of promised portables and find long-term expansion solutions.

“I’ve started small as a Walnut Road Elementary community, where there are three portables that have been promised,” says Saakshi Khanna, parent and petition founder. “Even when the school receives those three portables, we will still be losing the staff room because that staff room is being converted a classroom now.”

The petition, which has already received more than 350 signatures, states that over the past three years the school has gone from having 671 students to 815 students.

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The overcapacity has resulted in students having class in gymnasiums, outdoor spaces, and other environments outside of traditional classrooms.

“Even though it is only three days since the school started, we, as parents, are already seeing the impact make-shift classrooms are having on our kids’ learning experiences,” the petition states. “We have seen decreased attention-span, reduced peer interaction, stress, anxiety, behavior issues and emotional challenges.”

Ritinder Matthew, associate director of communications for the Surrey School District, says the district knows this isn’t an ideal situation and is working with its provincial partners to find long-term, sustainable solutions to meet  capacity needs.

Questions are also being raised by parents over why other infrastructure in the neighborhood continues to be built up amid concerns over school spaces.

“They cannot keep putting new townhouses, and new residential complexes within the area without doing something about the school infrastructure,” Khanna said. “Whether it’s a new school in the catchment, two new schools in the catchment, or whether it’s building a second floor to accommodate more students in the classrooms.”

The Surrey School District says to meet enrolment needs, 53 portables are being moved around the district. But their challenging setup can cause delays, which is why some teachers are having to find alternate spaces on their own in the meantime.

“This past June we submitted our annual submission to the Ministry of Education and Childcare and what we’re asking for is ten new schools and seventeen additions,” Matthew said. “And that’s what we’re forecasting based on enrolment projections put forward by both the ministry and the city of Surrey.”

CityNews reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment on the petition but did not hear back in time for publication.

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