Cloverdale high schools feel the pinch

Shared lockers and extended days are helping a record number of students and staff cope at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

Clayton Heights Secondary

It’s a full house over at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, where staff and administrators have welcomed a record 2,011 students for the current school year, ushering in an extended school day for the fourth year in a row, and shared lockers for two grades in 2014.

The historic September 2014 enrolment at Surrey’s oldest high school is in line with spring projections but principal Allan Buggie is breathing a sigh of relief because more recent data had raised the possibility that there would be as many as 55 more students than originally expected showing up on the first day back.

The school’s original enrolment projection done in the spring was 2,005, a difference of just six students. “With the strike, we didn’t have our staff in to determine if students were double-registered, and if they  were coming or leaving,” he told The Reporter last week. “At one point, we were looking at up to 2,059 [students] but once all the dust settled, it was down to 2,011.”

The school was built in 1993 with a capacity of 1,400.

Factor in the 147 teachers, janitorial staff, secretaries, and administration, and 2,160 people a day are squeezing into a building designed for 1,400 students.

“It’s tight,” Buggie said.

There are eight portables on site to deal with overcrowding, one less than had been penciled in during the strike.

This is also the fourth year of an extended day that sees some students starting and ending the school day at different times to accommodate everyone.

This year, the Grade 10s have been included along with the Grade 11s and 12s in an extended day timetable.

Shared lockers have been a reality for Tweedy students for three years, but 2014 is the first year the Grade 9s, along with the Grade 10s, have had to share lockers.

Adding insult to injury for privacy-prizing teens, the lockers are already half-height.

Despite their deprivations, students are coping with timetable and locker hassles admirably, Buggie said.

“They are very resilient,” he said. They’re mostly just resigned.”

Education minister Peter Fassbender recently re-announced a new $55 million high school in Clayton will be complete by spring 2017, providing 1,500 new student spaces in the area.

Meanwhile Buggie predicts cramped conditions at the school continue to worsen due to the rapid pace of residential development in Cloverdale, where new homes are being built in Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary’s catchment areas, such as the Ridge at Bose Farms in West Cloverdale.

The situation is affecting Clayton Heights Secondary and associate elementary schools, too.

“I guess we’re going to continue to grow. With all the new developments going on within our community, it’s going to be putting pressure on schools.”

Clayton Heights Secondary principal Judy Henriques said the student population there is about what was expected, within five kids of the school’s projected enrolment, or 1,283 students this fall.

That doesn’t leave any room for more new students, however.

“We are full. As in, the physical space can’t accommodate the 1,280 students,” she said.

There are currently 10 portables at the school, which opened in 1999 and is said to have been built for 1,000 students.

Clayton Heights went to an extended timetable last year to deal with overcrowding. The extended day is in effect for all Grade 12 students, but also some students in Grade 10 and 11.

“It just depends on their situation,” she said.

The Grade 8s and 9s are on a fixed schedule, starting at 8 a.m. and ending their day at 2:15 p.m., with the majority of Grade 10s and 11s starting at 9:25 a.m. and going to 3:40 p.m. All Grade 12s have an extended day, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 3:40 p.m.

That opens up the equivalent of three classrooms per period, but it means about 40 students on spares and study breaks are not in class at any given time.

Henriques said the students are conscientious and find places to study quietly. “We don’t have a huge schmozzle of kids roaming,” she said.

And now that classes are in session, everyone is focused on getting the new school year in gear.

“We’re approaching normal as quickly as  possible,” she said.

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