Four Surrey high schools are currently so overcapacity that the district has set up “waitlists” for in-catchment students.
District Superintendent Jordan Tinney sent a memo dated Dec. 10 to principals saying Fleetwood Park, Panorama Ridge, Semiahmoo and Sullivan Heights secondaries now have “designated waitlists” for students who live in-catchment but did not attend a feeder elementary school in the 2018/19 school year.
The situation isn’t entirely new, according to district spokesman Doug Strachan, noting Sullivan Heights has had this in place for a few years. Strachan said Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary used to also have this designation, but that changed with the opening of Salish Secondary this fall, as the new school provided relief.
But, even so, the number of schools with these “waitlists” has now doubled, from two to four.
It’s all a result of overcrowding in the ever-growing district, Strachan noted.
“Where we are now, is having to say, ‘Sorry, but you’re going to have to go to a different school, we just don’t have the capacity here now. Even though you might be across the street from a school,’” Strachan said.
“It happens. We have had to turn back in some cases, families, or students, that lived in-catchment and get them into another secondary school,” he said, adding that in those instances, the schools keep track, and if space becomes available, those students are offered a transfer to their catchment.
Strachan couldn’t say how many children are on these waitlists, but that the district would have a better idea in the spring, after registration for the 2019-20 school year is underway.
Meantime, Tinney’s memo also revealed the long list of schools that are closed to out-of-catchment registration for the 2019-20 school year. In all, 44 schools are on the list, including the four high schools with the in-catchment “waitlists.”
Despite the situation, Strachan said it’s encouraging there have been more school funding announcements in the last year.
“When you’re growing at 1,000 students a year, there’s a certain amount of capital you need just to keep up.”
A corporate report to Surrey council earlier this fall noted that 37,996 residential development units are expected to be built in Surrey and White Rock over the next 10 years. That number rises to 44,113, when including suites.
The district anticipates that growth will result in an additional 11,078 school-aged children enrolling over that time period. Currently, the district has an estimated 72,526 students.
As of Dec. 20, the district is operating with 325 portables.