LETTER: Split school timetable won’t work

Tatiana Buree.

To Mr. Kevin Falcon, MLA, Surrey-Cloverdale;

My name is Tatiana Buree and I’m a Grade 11 student in the French Immersion program attending your local community high school, Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

Only recently were the students at my school informed of a drastic change in our timetable that is about to take place in September.

I am writing to you because as Cloverdale’s MLA, you represent the LTS community. On behalf of students and parents, we feel you are the one we should turn to for help in this situation.

You write on your website, “As you consider the vision we are putting forward, you’ll see that our ongoing priority is the well-being of the next generation of British Columbians. To ensure our kids grow up to enjoy every opportunity that we have…”

If we are your priority prove it to us and be the voice we don’t have by demanding funds from the government, to build the schools Surrey – Cloverdale and South Surrey in particular – so desperately need.

Lord Tweedsmuir is already 20 per cent overcapacity. With our community growing ever so rapidly (800 new residents per month) the amount of students enrolling in our school will only increase.

Because we don’t have enough room in our school to support 2,000 students, many suggestions have been made.

One is to extend the day. No matter what proposal will be put into action the outcome will be chaos. It will impact not only students, but parents, teachers and support staff as well.

The extended day means that there will be a huge change in schedule for students participating in extra curricular activities.

We will have a different dismissal time for junior and senior students and it will make it difficult to offer multi-grade clubs.

Different dismissal times will complicate sporting events at schools on a traditional schedule and require early dismissals from class. Many students participate in community programs and the early arrival/late dismissal will interfere with this.

The extended day will impact student’s safety. At any given time, 20 per cent of the student population will not be registered in a scheduled class. Many will wander outside or walk to the fast food stores causing worry to parents and potential difficulty accounting for students during an emergency.

Students are more likely to be late for early classes. Not only does school start earlier, but students have less time in-between classes to go to their locker and arrive at class.

From personal experience I can say that even now with fewer students and more time in-between classes I often arrive late because of the huge crowds in the hallways. Imagine how difficult this will be with more students and less time.

Let us not forget the educational impact. Having 20 per cent of students not scheduled each block will result in hallway noise, supervision problems and distracted students in class.

The overcrowding will put an additional strain on school resources and facilities such as washrooms.

Research on adolescent sleep indicates that school already starts too early and moving to an extended day would make it even worse for the students on the “early” shift. Research has also proven that the human brain does not accept information as easily in the early morning as it does later in the day.

Our school has the earliest start time in the district and now we will start even earlier.

As well, some staff might chose to leave the school and work elsewhere, as they will have to provide additional hours to maintain current service levels.

Lastly, this new schedule will have a negative impact on families.

Families with multiple children will face accommodating two or even three school schedules.

Many of my friends have younger sibling that they must take care of after school, and that will no longer be a possibility for them. Alterations to the bus schedules for French Immersion and special needs students may disrupt family routines.

This extended day is not a long-term solution. I am a Grade 11 student, this will only impact me for one year, but I care for the students who will have to suffer through it for their entire time in high school. The only solution

for Surrey’s growing community is to build a new high school.

We need you, as our MLA, to pressure the government to give us the money we need to build another school in our community.

Why is it that Surrey, the largest-growing district, has not already been given the necessary capital funding when other districts, such as Vancouver, do not have a rapidly-growing population do get the funds from the government?

If we do get the proper funds we need to build a school, it will still take two-to-five years to build.

Meanwhile the only temporary solution I see is to buy portables. Lord Tweedsmuir has eight portables with space for more. Yes, they are very expensive, $100,000 not including maintenance, but we need funding from the government to provide us with these as well.

Mr. Falcon, I quote from your website: “Every generation gets a chance to define its future.” I am trying to help the future of the next generation at my school.

I hope that as a father of young kids living in our community you have empathy for the students and parents of Lord Tweedsmuir.

Use your voice and make changes now so your kids won’t have to grow up and attend a school with an “extended day”.

Tatiana Buree