So many Surrey students, and not enough spaces to teach them in

Portables in Surrey. Global News

The start of the B.C. school year is just over a week away, and Surrey is scrambling to create enough space in which to teach its more than 70,000 students.

The Surrey School District is B.C.’s biggest, and portables are fast springing up on the city’s schoolyards.

Coverage of Surrey schools on

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There are currently 275 portables in the school district, and it is adding 50 more this year for a total of 325 by October.

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All told, 7,000 students will be taught in portables.

For the time being, however, there simply isn’t enough room to accommodate Surrey’s 72,000 students in the city’s schools.

“They’re not ready, not all the portables are in place,” education advocate Cindy Dalglish told Global News.

“They’re going to have to utilize common areas in the schools to accommodate students that are not actual classrooms.”

The NDP government has pledged to reduce portables and build more schools. Premier John Horgan said last year that his party would set a zero portable target if it ran the province.

Now it does, and five weeks into its tenure, Horgan admitted that hitting that target could take as long as four years.

READ MORE: Crowded Surrey schools to get new teachers and new portables for 2017

“It could, and we don’t want to concede that in week five of the government. But we did not anticipate the Supreme Court so aggressively slapping down Liberal policy,” he told reporters Friday.

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Horgan was talking about a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that required the provincial government to restore staffing levels to pre-2002 levels.

That directive will reduce class sizes, and therefore require more classrooms in total.

As for school spaces, Education Minister Rob Fleming told Global News that it’s important for the province to “get ahead of the curve and start to reduce portables.”

He hopes that can happen within a couple of years.

Meanwhile, Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan said there’s been “significant investment” in Surrey schools in recent years and that the district “hope[s] it continues.”

Surrey is currently in the process of adding two new high schools.

One, located in Clayton Heights, is slated to open next year. A second school in the Grandview Heights area is due to be completed in 2020.

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