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Board approves 2024-25 five-year capital plan requesting $3.17B for new school space

capitalplan-growth-2023.jpgWith projected enrolment estimated to reach up to 91,000 students by 2030, the Surrey Board of Education approved the 2024-25 five-year capital plan at the May 10 board meeting, seeking $3.17 billion in funding from the Ministry of Education for 50 major capital projects to address enrolment growth.

The Surrey Board of Education has approved the 2024-25 five-year capital plan, seeking $3.17 billion in funding from the Ministry of Education for 50 major capital projects to address current and anticipated enrolment growth in Surrey and White Rock schools.

Presented at the May 10 board meeting, the plan includes funding requests for 10 new schools, 22 additions, 14 site acquisitions, three school replacements and one seismic upgrade, as well as 19 building envelope projects. The board presentation noted Surrey Schools has seen a 24% increase in student population in the past 20 years, with projected enrolment estimated to reach up to 91,000 students by 2030.

“Surrey has seen steady growth over the last 10 or so years, and we forecast that growth to be increasing at a much faster pace than what we have seen over the last few years,” said Dave Riley, executive director of the Capital Project Office. “This has caused us to revisit some of our capital planning assumptions and to look carefully at the needs of the district to ensure we can provide engaging learning environments for students right in their neighborhoods.”

Riley highlighted that certain district zones are significantly above capacity in secondary schools, including Cloverdale/Clayton (38% over capacity), South Surrey/White Rock (37%), Newton/Fleetwood (32%), Guildford (31%) and Panorama/Sullivan (21%). Elementary schools are over capacity to a lesser extent, particularly in Cloverdale/Clayton (14%), Guildford (8%) and South Surrey/White Rock (7%).

As a result, the report estimated that the current figure of 300 portables across the district could balloon to 638 portables in 2032 if the district does not receive any new provincial funding.

Trustee Terry Allen put forward a motion to instruct district staff to conduct a comprehensive study into the stacking of portables and the related cost, to report back at the September board meeting.

“We need to seriously look at stacking portables simply because we don’t have the space in some of these schools without significantly impacting children’s playing fields, playgrounds and all of those things children enjoy more than having to go to school in portables,” said Allen. “I think the time has come for us to actually attempt to look at if it’s possible and to bring the report to the September board meeting and hopefully move from there.”

Trustee Bob Holmes echoed Allen’s sentiments and noted that while some schools are under capacity, moving students from overcrowded catchments to other schools would be an unfeasible solution, as well as short-lived as those school catchments continue to grow on their own.

“Recently, the provincial government, in their budget, announced $3.6 billion for capital over three years, which sounds fantastic until you look at our number of $3.2 billion for our district alone,” said Holmes. “And really, the growth isn’t just in Surrey – we are the biggest, we are growing the most, but we see growth in Langley, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Kamloops, Kelowna, so $3.6 billion is not going to go far and it’s certainly not going to do what we need.

“As crazy as the idea sounds, we have to look at everything, we’re not going to leave any stone unturned.”

The breakdown of the district’s capital funding request is as follows:

  • 22 Additions: $1.19 billion
  • 10 New Schools: $1.17 billion
  • 14 Site Acquisitions: $602 million
  • Three Replacements: $191 million
  • One Seismic Upgrade: $22 million
  • Total Major Capital Projects: $3.17 billion

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