A public rally is being organized for this weekend to draw attention to overcrowded conditions at many Surrey schools and the lack of new capital funding for the ever-growing school district.
The event, called “8 new schools now! A rally for Surrey education,” is posted on Facebook and word has spread quickly through other social media such as Twitter. As of Wednesday morning, just a day after the posting, there were already 52 people confirmed attending on Facebook.
The public invitation notes that 800 new residents move to Surrey each month, leading to increasing enrolment for the school district and that “despite repeated requests,” the provincial government hasn’t provided any new capital funding since 2005.
“With …numerous schools operating well above capacity,” reads the Facebook page, “there are currently 232 portables across the district, meaning over 7,000 students will learn in a portable this year.”
SFU student and community activist Paul Hillsdon, 21, has coordinated the event, which takes place at Holland Park in Whalley on Sunday afternoon. He’s been following the Surrey School District’s funding woes closely.
“It seems to continually escalate and no solution is ever presented,” Hillsdon says. “The more I learned about it, the more clear it became that at the end of the day, more portables aren’t a solution, an extended day isn’t really a solution, stopping development isn’t a solution. The provincial government has not built new schools – the provincial government needs to build more schools.”
Hillsdon has garnered the support of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), as well as the Surrey Teachers’ Association (STA). He’s also contacted the student organizers of rallies at Earl Marriott and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary schools in recent weeks.
Students at both high schools held walkouts last week to protest controversial plans to extend the school day in order to accommodate more students at their cramped, portable-filled schools.
Hillsdon said it’s important students attend the weekend rally as well.
“I am very big on youth voice. I think it’s critical that they’re there.”
Hillsdon planned a successful anti-gang rally in Surrey two years ago.
“It brought everyone together around the same table,” he said. “That was the idea here – get these groups working together and put up the pressure in a very public manner.”
Trustee Terry Allen is also demanding an emergency meeting with premier-designate Christy Clark to outline Surrey’s funding needs. He’ll present a motion to his fellow board of education members next week.
“Our children are not being treated like any other kids in this province,” said Allen. “It’s critical that she understands. It’s gotten to the point now where we’re pleading for the rights of the kids in Surrey.”
The weekend education rally is scheduled for March 13 from 1-2 p.m. at Holland Park, 13428 Old Yale Rd. Check the Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/hi0pHS or search “8 new schools.”