SURREY - With classrooms at capacity and portables a regular sight around school grounds in Surrey, work has begun on four projects that plan to alleviate some of that pressure to the tune of 1,660 additional classroom seats.
Those projects come in the form of two new elementary schools and two secondary-school expansions, which was celebrated by provincial and education representatives in Surrey on Thursday.
Along with Laurae McNally, chair of the Surrey Board of Education, MLAs Kevin Falcon, David Hayer and Stephanie Cadieux joined Education Minister George Abbott for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of what will become Goldstone Park Elementary School in south Newton.
"Surrey is pretty unique in the province in that it's a growing district first of all, but it's also growing pretty much across the district," said Abbott following the groundbreaking. "If Surrey continues to grow at the rate that it is, we're going to have to keep making these investments. These are not the last investments we will make."
Goldstone will be one of the two new elementary schools and is expected to cost $14.7 million. The second elementary school will be located in the Clayton East Area, and will be called Katzie Elementary after the Katzie First Nations. That project is estimated to cost $14 million.
The final two projects will be expansions on existing secondary schools in the area, one of which will be Fraser Heights Secondary at a cost of $7.1 million and ƒcole Panorama Ridge Secondary at $8.4 million.
While once the only-growing school district in the province, Surrey is still the fastest-growing district with roughly 1,000 new students entering the school system every year.
For McNally, the four projects are a welcomed indicator that the province is aware of Surrey's need for more education infrastructure and she hopes to see more projects like this being announced in the future. The reason? Surrey currently has 270 portables being used as classrooms.
"Folks may not realize that this school district, on average, moves anywhere from 30 to 40 portables every single year to accommodate the growth and every time you move a portable it costs us approximately $20,000," McNally said. "That's a whole hunk of change out of our operating budget and money that could really be much better spent on our resources here in the district."
And while McNally admitted that portables would always be a part of Surrey's education system, she did say that projects like these are exactly what the city needs right now.
"We love that these projects are in the hopper now but these can't be the end of it," said McNally. "Mr. Education Minister and Mr. Finance Minister, we're going to be on your doorstep for years to come."