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New petition started to bring Surrey’s StrongStart issue to B.C. legislature

‘These kids are our future, they will shape our community and represent the citizens in the province’
StrongStart in Surrey is at-risk of closure, which will largely affect new immigrant and low income families who are not able to afford daycare. (File photo)

Surrey families who are fighting to save the StrongStart program are aiming to bring their fight to the B.C. legislature.

An online petition to save the program has gained more than 3,200 signatures. However, a hard-copy petition is now making the rounds so it will be considered valid to be presented to the provincial government. Organizers have until April 26 to collect signatures.

READ MORE: Parents, educators push for StrongStart to stay in Surrey

“The parents and students this week have been drawing and writing why StrongStart is important to them. We will collect all these letters from parents and drawings from the kids to deliver to (Education Minister) Rachna Singh’s office to let her know what she is potentially shutting down,” Peter Shen, who organized both petitions, told Peace Arch News.

StrongStart is a school-based program where preschoool-aged children are able to attend with a guardian to get acclimated to a education environment where they can learn to read and participate in activities with other children, and caregivers can gain necessary resources.

In Surrey, the program may close soon to more than 3,000 children who are accessing it, due to a strain on budget by the Surrey school board. According to trustees, funding for the program has not increased since 2008.

A physical copy of the petition can be found on the link to the original petition, with the goal to collect at least 3,000 signatures. Once signed, it can be dropped off to a StrongStart classroom.

“City of Surrey is very diverse and multicultural. A lot of parents and grandparents are new immigrants to the country and community, they do not have family or friends here to support them. By taking their kids to StrongStart, they develop friendships and a support network for each other,” said Shen, whose three children have and continue to benefit from the program.

READ MORE: Parents, children rally to save StrongStart in Surrey

While StrongStart in Surrey used to operate as a drop-in program that children could attend on a daily basis, the reality now is that families are only allowed to access it twice a week. Even this reduced rate is better than nothing, Shen said.

Surrey school district is expected to come to a decision on StrongStart’s future soon, to either end it altogether or significantly reduce it down to only 10 locations, if no further funding comes from the Education Ministry.

The father said the minister has been invited to attend a StrongStart classroom to see firsthand how important it is to families. So far, any attempts to reach Singh have not received a response, he added.

“All the parents want to do is get a chance to talk to Rachna Singh, have her listen to our concerns and answer the questions we have. We invite her to come into the classroom and just observe, talk to the parents, watch the kids play and bond together. Listen to the laughter, joy and smiles on the children’s face,” Shen expressed.

“These kids are our future. They will shape our community and represent the citizens in the province. But taking away this program, we will fail our children. The government needs to hear us loud and clear and do the right thing for the education of our kids.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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