Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens as B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside describes new mask wearing policy for public schools, Feb. 4, 2021. (B.C. government)

‘No question’ it’s a challenge to keep up with Surrey’s growth, schools: Education minister

Jennifer Whiteside says district didn't need to purchase portables for 2020-21 school year

B.C.’s Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside says the province is “on track” to address the use of portables in the Surrey school district and get kids learning in classrooms.

Those comments came during a Surrey Board of Trade digital event on education and childcare in B.C. with Whiteside and Minister of State for Child Care Katrina Chen on Wednesday (June 23).

“I know that Surrey is a very fast-growing community and we’re in a game of really having to try and keep pace with the growth,” noted Whiteside.

“I know we have some facilities, some schools in Surrey that are over capacity, some that are not and we are working every year with the district and with the city to bring online new elementary schools that help take pressure away.”

She pointed to the Capital Project office, which is a joint group between the Ministry of Education, the City of Surrey and the Surrey school district.

“There’s no question that it’s a challenge to keep up with the incredible growth that’s happening in Surrey. But I think you would hear this from the district and from the city as well, that the model we have of development in Surrey is really, really efficient.”

However, Whiteside noted that the 2020-21 school year “I believe it was last year, the Surrey school district did not need to purchase any new portables and they won’t be purchasing any portables this year.”

Earlier in the school year, the district confirmed to the Now-Leader it had 383 portables in its inventory, but only 353 of those were used for student spaces and programs.

That comes as the district saw student enrolment down from projections in what Superintendent Jordan Tinney described as a first in his time at the district.

READ ALSO: Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections, Sept. 18, 2020

In a September 2020 school board meeting, Tinney said the district is down more than 700 students at the elementary level from what was expected. For secondary schools, he said the district is up about 350 students.

“Overall, we are up 370 students from last year, but that’s still 400 below projections,” he said.

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