Letters to the Editor

Leader readers steamed about education

Letter writers worry students
Letter writers worry students' learning experience is suffering.
— image credit: Leader file photo

The decision to create an alternate schedule for students at Earl Marriott and Lord Tweedsmuir is a short-sighted and pathetic attempted to solve a problem ignored for far too long.  

With portables permanently camped out on schools across the city and with the number of portables increasing every year, who would be surprised to hear that space for Surrey students has not only reached capacity but also far exceeded its capacity? It is obvious to anyone driving by any school in Surrey that our schools are busting at their seams. 

The Surrey School District has managed to plan for, budget for, and ultimately build a state-of-the-art administration building to comfortably and stylishly work in. Why must my daughter work from a humid disgusting portable in Grade 5 and be faced with going to a high school that has even less room for her? Is the school board really blaming Santa for not dropping “any new schools down the chimney?” Was the school board really not paying attention to the growth in the community or, was the district too busy meeting their own needs for swanky office space? 

Sadly, the future of education in Surrey looks even bleaker. With no hope or promise of new schools any time soon, the district is not only altering school hours to create shifts for class time but is also considering online courses for high school students so they can take classes from home and free up more space. Do we really want to socially disconnect our kids from their community, their peers, and from their teachers?  Instead, why not have the administrators work from home and fill up their new offices with classrooms for actual Surrey students?   

What exactly are we putting in to the education of our kids and what are we going to get out of it? 

I will now worry not only about what my kids are learning at school but also if there will be an actual school for my kids to learn in. 

Amy Klassen, Surrey

Too many negatives

Re: Extended school hours at Earl Marriott and Lord Tweedsmuir secondaries.

There are many concerns regarding the idea of extending the school day for students:

• Having 200-300 students not scheduled each block will result in hallway noise, supervision problems and be a significant distraction to the students in class.

• The school day will be extended for families with more than one child attending that are on two different schedules. Families will have to be up earlier and delayed getting to work at the beginning of the day to accommodate two different start times. They will also have to be home earlier from work at the end of the day in order to be there for their children on the early schedule.

• Students leaving the property during their unscheduled block will create more problems. Students skipping class to be with their friends who have a “spare” block will increase. Residential and local business complaints will increase. With different bell schedules the school sense of community will be fragmented. School safety and sense of community will deteriorate.

• Intramurals will not be able to run at lunch, as the gyms will be used to teach gym classes. Grade 10-12 team practices and activities likely can’t start until after the fifth period is over. This will be approximately one-and-a-half hours after the Grades 10-12 students have been dismissed. Once students are done for the day getting them back to the school will be difficult. Extracurricular programs will be affected and scheduling will be challenging.

• After-school teacher support will be minimized with some teachers finishing their day early and likely leaving while others will not be available because they are on the late shift.

• It will be necessary to have twice as many buses as present in order to have the same service. What is the additional cost for doubling this service?

• Research on adolescent sleep indicates that school already starts too early and moving to an extended day would make it even worse for the students on the “early” shift.  

It is clear that the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages with respect to an extended day. Parents need to get involved now if they wish to influence the implementation of this proposed plan.

 

M. Reynolds, Surrey

How about a course in Problem Solving 101?

Re: City adding to crowded schools.

I’m sorry but I have to rant. Seriously? The city is adding to overcrowded schools? 

I am just a mom/volunteer of two girls in the school system – what do I know? But the answers seem perfectly clear to me. Surrey is the only district that keeps growing every year but capital funding from the education ministry has stopped for new schools.

The answer is easy: fund the only district that continues to grow. But it’s not that simple is it?

The ministry says yes, Surrey you are growing but your schools are not at capacity – in fact there are some schools with very few students, so if you want capital funding, start closing the half-empty schools, reorganize, and we will start funding you when you can really show you are overcrowded.

All fine on paper, but does closing a half-empty school really make a difference when it comes to saving money? I think not. It is a constant game of finger pointing – the district says the province won’t fund schools, the province says the district needs to use the money better, and around and around it goes. It never gets better, it never changes, and worst of all our kids pay the price.

How would it be if the city partnered with the school district when considering approving major developments? Would it work if they collaborated and said, “Hey this school has lots of space, let put this new complex in that catchment.” This may even solve the problem the district is facing with high schools having to stay open longer.

If the ministry wants to affect real change, they will add mandatory courses to all elementary schools now  that teach Problem Solving 101 and Cooperation 101, instead of passing on the legacy of pass the buck.

Sapphire Drew, Surrey

Trustees should be fighting harder for Surrey

Why do we have an elected school board if they only act as apologists for the provincial education ministry? It sounds good that they are looking for consensus, but who is looking out for Surrey?

Education budgets have not kept up to inflation, yet our school board is silent, or only offers up a whimper. When faced with cuts and rollbacks of public education, we only hear about opposition from the Vancouver Board of Education. Our Surrey school trustees should be advocates for public schools, not representatives of the provincial government.

When class size limits were first negotiated in Surrey, district-wide averages were above those same limits. We have lost much of our adult continuing education programs in the district. We are increasingly locked out of school grounds and facilities. We have growing numbers of students who face years in portables.

We should have twice the number of post-secondary seats than we do. Students pay more tuition than corporations pay tax. We need school trustees to stand up for Surrey students and their parents.

If trustees have lost their willingness to fight to improve and enhance public education, they should step down. The trustees’ call for political peace is very self-serving and undemocratic. The public should be forgiven when they believe politicians are all the same – only interested in their own re-election.

Pat O’Connor

Surrey

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