Skip to main content

Board approves exploring hybrid learning, tri-semester schooling to address enrolment pressures


The Surrey Board of Education has directed the superintendent and staff to consider hybrid learning models for Grade 10-12 students and year-round, tri-semester schooling as mitigation strategies to reduce overcrowding, in the wake of exponential enrolment increases and insufficient capital funding.

During the presentation of the updated Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) at the April 10 board meeting, the board unanimously approved motions to explore the potential advantages, feasibility and challenges of implementing hybrid learning models for senior secondary students and three-semester schedules. The initiative is part of the district's ongoing efforts to address increasing enrolment pressures while maintaining high-quality educational opportunities for all students.

The LRFP is a strategic document that outlines the future needs and priorities of schools over the next 10 years, guides development and improvements, and emphasizes the effective use of facilities to best meet student population changes and demands.

“It feels like we’re at a point where no matter what we do, we’re in a pretty tough spot and we have to look at other options to mitigate the situation that we’re in,” said Trustee Bob Holmes. “Because no matter what we get for funding, we’re going to be way behind, we can’t build our way out of this in three, four, five years.

“There’s a lot of complexities with it, but we cannot leave any stone unturned at this point, we have to at least look into it, see what options there are and see how it might benefit us.”

Dave Riley, Executive Director of the Capital Project Office (CPO), noted the district has grown by an average of 2,598 over the last two years – triple the average over the previous decade. Surrey Schools began the 2023-24 school year with 81,838 students and gained an additional 1,500 students between September 2023 and March 2024.

Supt. Mark Pearmain acknowledged the district is in a “significant growth cycle” and clarified that the delivery of education through a hybrid model would be a far cry from the abrupt online-only shift that took place at the start of the pandemic, drawing on successes of similar models in parts of Europe and Asia where students are thriving. Hybrid learning is currently taking place in a few district secondary schools, and in recent focus groups, students supported hybrid options as they appreciated flexibility in how they learn. As for tri-semester schedules, the timeline for year-round learning wouldn’t be implemented for a few years.

Pearmain reiterated the district’s commitment to ensuring quality education and well-being are at the centre of decisions made around schooling. He also noted that while these mitigation strategies may be viewed as short-term, they could remain longer than expected as the district and ministry continue to collaborate for more capital funding.

“I think initially, folks were thinking we’d be looking at these as temporary, but in many cases, with the growth cycle that we’re in, we’ll be looking at these for longer term as we move forward and work with our partners in the ministry to continue to build schools and provide services,” said Pearmain. “But at the same time, we want to ensure that we’re providing exceptional educational environments and opportunities for our kids and that will necessitate us to think about how we deliver educational programs, and they may look different as we move forward.”

The LRFP was partially informed by input from a public consultation, in which 87% of the 7,600 respondents – primarily parents, caregivers and staff – agreed that the district’s capacity issues require immediate attention, though many of the proposed mitigation strategies were seen as temporary fixes in lieu of long-term solutions. However, the district is already undertaking a number of these strategies, including:

  • implementing extended day schedules at five secondary schools this fall;
  • building prefabricated additions at three elementary schools, set to open in September;
  • closing Bayridge Elementary and Latimer Road Elementary to new in-catchment students;
  • relocating the Montessori Program of Choice from Latimer Road Elementary and directing new kindergarten requests to programs at Douglas Elementary and Mountainview Montessori;
  • and continuously evaluating existing school catchment boundaries to manage enrolment.

“It’s not lost upon me or the board that we have 169 new classrooms currently in progress in the district, and 105 more that we have approval to move forward with the project definition phase,” said Vice-Chair Gary Tymoschuk. “It should be acknowledged that we are getting new projects in our city, it’s just that it’s growing so fast that we need more.”

Per the board’s direction, a report on hybrid learning is expected to be presented by by the end of the year, while a report on tri-semester schooling is expected to be presented by June 30, 2025. These reports will allow the board to consider both options and determine their feasibility for implementation. The board also voted to request that the ministry make public its three-year capital plan for all school districts in B.C., as knowing the province’s funding priorities ahead of time could assist the district in anticipating mitigation strategies.

“If we had some idea of where they were going to go, we could certainly plan better for what we want to do and our expectations of what we’re going to get out of that capital plan,” said Trustee Terry Allen.


image description
Back to top