Carrying placards and chanting “eight new schools” and “fund our children,” about 150 Surrey students, parents, teachers, politicians and residents gathered in Holland Park on Sunday to demand more schools for the rapidly growing school district.
“Surrey needs its needs met. It needs new schools and it needs them today,” said Denise Moffatt, president of the Surrey Teachers’ Association addressing the crowd. “This must happen now – not tomorrow, not next week, not in a month, not in a year…”
Moffatt noted that schools are more than simply classrooms, but are places where communities are built, where people make connections and where residents can get involved.
“These are important community hubs,” she said.
The rally was sparked by recent walkouts by students at Lord Tweedsmuir and Earl Marriott Secondary schools, which are considering extending the timetable in the fall in an effort to relieve overcrowded conditions and accommodate more students.
The Surrey School District has not received provincial funding for new schools since 2005, leaving many elementary and secondary facilities over capacity and using multiple portables. This fall, the district is expecting another 1,000 students.
The afternoon protest was coordinated by SFU student Paul Hillsdon, 21, who also organized an anti-gang rally two years ago. He’s been watching the capital funding problems in Surrey and decided public pressure needed to be applied to government.
“There is nothing as elementary to our infrastructure as schools,” Hillsdon told Sunday’s crowd. “There is no way that we can build the economy of tomorrow, that we can improve the quality of life in this city or that we can improve the well being on our citizens without a proper, quality education system.”
Bob Holmes, co-president of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), said with the current population growth in Surrey, some elementary schools are expected to have more students in portables than in the school itself.
“This rally is about everyone … saying enough is enough,” said Holmes. “This has to end now.”
Students from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary also proposed the creation of youth councils in each school district to “encourage our youth to be involved in decision making that directly affect us.”
Printed postcards were available at the rally that attendees signed and sent to the provincial government and the DPAC is also organizing an emailing campaign to highlight the desperate need for capital funding in Surrey.