Chilliwack students losing the space race

Nearly 1,000 Chilliwack students will be housed in portable classrooms this winter

As nearly 1,000 Chilliwack students faced another winter in portable classrooms this week, the provincial government proudly announced funding commitments for Surrey that will create classroom space for 7,000 over the next three years.

The move is justified, said the government in a press release issued Wednesday, because of Surrey’s rapid growth and lack of previous school construction.

Said education minster Rob Fleming: “Students in Surrey deserve a better learning environment and our government is working with the Surrey school district to get kids out of portables and into classrooms as quickly as possible.”

While it’s hard to begrudge Surrey the $166.7 million in funding approved so far – money for the construction of two new schools and the expansion of four others – it is equally hard to understand why the same urgency is not evident in Chilliwack.

“We’ve been growing by the equivalent of one small elementary school a year over the last five or six years,” said Chilliwack Teacher Association president Ed Kletteke in the most recent edition of Teacher Magazine.

There are currently 93 portable classrooms deployed around Chilliwack, giving the district the distinction of having more kids in portables per capita than any other school district in the province.

This, of course, is not news to anyone. The previous school board, and the one before that, cited the urgent need for school construction to keep up with the continued growth.

RELATED: Chilliwack aims high in school funding request

This fall students in Promontory settled into their newly expanded elementary school. But even with the addition, some students are still in portables.

The province also announced funding for a new school in the city’s south end, but construction won’t keep pace as more and more young families move to the area.

This government campaigned on the elimination of portable classrooms. And while its desire to provide “a better learning environment” in Surrey is admirable, Chilliwack parents might ask their MLAs and newly elected trustees why they’re not seeing the same results here.

READ MORE: Student enrolment up in Chilliwack yet again

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