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Enrolment update puts Surrey Schools at nearly 82,000 students for 2023-24 school year

iStock-976317922.jpgThe Surrey School District's updated enrolment numbers total 81,838 students for the 2023-24 school year, a 3.9% increase in student population. (image via iStock)

The Surrey School District’s 2023-24 enrolment numbers are in, exceeding previous projections and bringing the total number of students for the school year so far to 81,838.

The updated numbers were presented at the Oct. 18 Surrey Board of Education meeting after first being submitted to the Ministry of Education and Child Care. Each year, B.C. school districts submit reports to the ministry reflecting enrolment numbers as of Sept. 30 to accurately measure enrolment changes year to year.

Enrolment by the Numbers:

  • Elementary: 45,730
  • Secondary: 31,035
  • Learning Centres: 737
  • Continuing Education: 1,837
  • Education Services School: 208
  • SAIL: 2,291
  • International Students: 805

“We have seen rapid growth this year and last year beyond our traditional growth of about 800 students per year,” said Deputy Supt. Andrew Holland. “We’re now growing at a rate of between 2,400 and 2,500 students per year.”

The current total shows an increase of 3,089 students over last year – a 3.9% jump in student population – including kindergarten to Grade 12 students, adult learners and students in online programs. The increase includes 2,494 K-12 students, totalling 76,765, and 64 international fee-paying students, totalling 813. The number of students who self identify as Indigenous learners dropped slightly by 37 students to 3,019.

The number of students who received English Language Learner support also grew significantly, up by 2,657 students from last year for a total of 22,947, and the number of students who received inclusive education assistance grew by 427 to 9,700 students.

The board reiterated the district’s need for additional funding to support building new schools and additions to accommodate the rapidly growing number of students in the district.

“A few months ago, we raised the idea of double-decker portables, and while people may not have taken us seriously, we are now grappling with a looming and critical classroom space shortage in our district and are exploring every possible option available to us,” said Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen after the meeting.

“The fact is, there are students in Surrey who are unable to attend classes in their neighbourhood schools because there is no room. That’s not fair to students or their families, and it doesn’t serve to build strong or cohesive communities. We are working closely with the province, but as residential developments across Surrey continue to expand, and our student population grows, we need new school infrastructure – quickly.”

“Another concerning fact is that we have as many children in portables as other districts have in their school classrooms, that’s how large our portable population is,” added Larsen.

Trustee Garry Thind highlighted that to support 2,500 new students, the district would need the equivalent of four new elementary schools and a secondary school built this year.

“We are facing huge challenges with this growth – shortage of staff, adding more portables onsite – and we are in a stage where we don’t have any room to put portables on schools,” said Thind.

Larsen also referenced the planned SkyTrain expansion along Fraser Highway, where subsequent, extensive housing development will compound overcrowding issues in Surrey if more schools aren’t built to keep pace with enrolment demands.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do when it gets built because, as of right now, there are no new schools funded for that area. This is a critical point for our district and immediate action is needed.”

“If you can talk to your MLA, write letters and lobby, do what you can, we really do appreciate that.”

At the March Public Board Meeting, the board received an update on the status of development in Fleetwood along the SkyTrain corridor and the potential impacts on surrounding schools. In the May Public Board Meeting, the Board approved the district’s five-year capital plan request that includes additions to Lena Shaw, Walnut Road, William Watson and Woodland Park elementary schools; additions to Frank Hurt, Fraser Heights and North Surrey secondary schools; and site acquisitions for four new elementary schools and one new secondary school.

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