Surrey school survey focuses on addressing capacity concerns

By Catherine Garrett and Negin Nia

The Surrey School District is conducting community consultations to figure out how best to deal with overcrowding in classrooms.

People will be able to weigh in on different strategies, such as school “shifts,” tri-semester schooling, hybrid online learning models, and bussing students to out-of-catchment schools.

“Our preference is to build new schools in addition to existing schools but we do need to explore some alternative strategies,” Ritinder Matthew, associate director of Communications at Surrey Schools, told CityNews.

“But right now these are just in the consideration phase and we want to hear from our community, staff, and parents and guardians about what their thoughts on these strategies are.”

The results of the survey, which was launched on Monday, will be used to help the Surrey School District identify which direction to take.

The shortage in space comes amid an increase in student enrollment. The district says it welcomed more than 2,400 new students over the last two years, compared to 800 students per year historically, which is a 200 per cent increase in new enrollments.

This rate of increase is not sustainable as the current number of schools in the district cannot accommodate the student body, the district adds.

As a result of the lack of space, Surrey city councillor Linda Annis previously told CityNews some school are forced to teach students in places like gymnasiums or staff rooms. She says the district is also short on portables.

“We need to think outside of the box … it’s the only way to solve this problem,” she said Thursday.

The district is also planning on conducting smaller in-person consultations with parents, caregivers, and students. Dates have not yet been announced.

Staff, parents, and guardians will have until Nov. 29 to complete the survey if they want to. Once presented to the board, results will be made public.

“We are continuing to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Child Care to identify long-term sustainable solutions to accommodate our districts growth… and while we wait for approval for new schools and funding we do need to explore some alternatives,” Matthew said.

-With files from Srushti Gangdev

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