Dean McGee with the Surrey District Parents Advisory Council hoped this year would mark a turning point in the district’s portable problem.
“We need to move forward on that list of projects and… accelerating it and getting rid of portables and not bringing in new ones every year,” McGee said.
Surrey saw 28 new portables added for the 2019/2020 school year, bringing the total in the district to 361. According to the Surrey School Coalition’s Karen Tan, if you stack up all of Surrey’s portables, they would be as high as Grouse Mountain.
“The students in our portables are now greater than the population of the whole New Westminster school district,” Tan said.
Education minister Rob Fleming predicts fall 2020 is the beginning of the end of Surrey’s portable problem.
WATCH: Surrey bringing in more portables for students
“I think it’ll be this time next year and especially September 2021, that’s when a lot of projects that are being built right now — where we’ve broken ground already — will be completed and come due,” he said.
The NDP still has not made good on its election promise to eradicate Surrey’s portables. After 16 years of little to no action by the previous government, 10 capital projects are either under construction or in the planning stage for the district.
Opening some of those projects in 2021 would free up about 4,500 seats, but the district estimates the student body grows by about a 1,000 students a year.
It’s why Matt Westphal with the Surrey Teachers Association believes the portable problem isn’t over yet.
“Just to keep pace with that growth, we would need to build one new elementary school every year and a new secondary school every two to three years,” Westphal said.
WATCH: The Surrey school district already earmarked more than 340 portables this year (Aired: 2018)
If that is the case, the district says it shouldn’t have to foot the $10.7-million bill to move and maintain all 361 portables.
“It would be nice to get some relief from what we’re taking out of the operating budget,” said Surrey School District spokesperson Doug Strachan.
“As parents, we should all be angry in Surrey,” Tan said.
“Let’s fund our portables properly and not take money away from the classroom.”