Category Archives: school overcrowding

Students struggling to learn in roasting-hot portables

I just dropped off a fan and spray bottle for my daughter in her classroom at Sunnyside Elementary. The seven portable units have heat in winter, but no water, no washrooms, and no A/C in spring/summer. Parents and teachers often supply basic shelving and storage space for educational materials. There will probably be two more portables at Sunnyside next year. My children still love going to school, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the many teachers and staff at Sunnyside.

I sent a thermometer to school today so I could have a number for how hot it gets in there. The sun beats down on the metal roofs and the fans brought by teachers and students hardly move air around at all. There’s no shade to cool the units, so when the sun hits, they heat up quickly. For students who struggle with hydration, it’s dangerous for them to be in school for the afternoon.

At least one teacher is trying to find $400 for a portable cooling unit for the classroom. They’ll probably end up bringing the cooling unit from their house to use at school during the week.

This new school building opened in 2014, built for 400 students, now with over 600 students, with more projected to come next year. The gravel field is the main play space, and it would be great if it were replaced with grass. Bandaids are a hot commodity.

From google maps, edited to include the 7 portables.

I like the teachers and staff here, and my children have done well at Sunnyside. The band program found shared space with French classes in one of the portables, which at least allowed the award-winning jazz and concert bands to continue. The band program includes many students from other schools in the area, so it’s crucial for them to have space to practice in, and this one portable is the only space available. There is a very active PAC at Sunnyside, and many parents work hard to help the school run smoothly, with great learning activities for the children. Despite the less-than-ideal physical environment, in the end, it’s the people that make a school, and Sunnyside has a wonderful team of educators, staff, and parents all working together to support the students.

Now if we can just get some air conditioning.


South Surrey stands to lose what it loves during urbanization

The last performance of Sunnyside Elementary School’s award-winning jazz and concert band program is next Thursday, June 22, 6pm at the school. There’s no more room at the school for drums, pianos, marimbas, and musical instruments you can’t put in your pocket. South Surrey is running out of room all over.


A corner lot by Sunnyside Elementary was finally bulldozed. In a day or two it was transformed from the left picture to the right picture. The lot will become three new big houses with tiny yards. The tree there, a big maple, I think, was well-loved for 50 years, at a guess. It had a tire swing and lovely climbing branches. I’m sure children sat there on summer days, but the inevitable forces of economics were unable to save it for future children.



It’s ironic that at the same time this lot was being bulldozed, the Sunnyside Elementary school’s music program was undergoing the same transformation. img_2147.jpg

For over 20 years, students passionate about music could find a mentor at Sunnyside Elementary. Next year, unless we get even more parent advocacy, this practice room will become a classroom, and their music teacher will be teaching at 7-9 other schools, normalized by the pressures of urbanization.


It’s hard to take pictures of a band program facing the bulldozers. How do I take a picture of something that’s not there? How do I document the absence of a school at the Kiwanis music festival for the first time in over a decade? How do I show what will be lost without demeaning the efforts of future band programs? The Surrey school district will ensure that Sunnyside grade 7 students can take band if they want, two days a week (100 minutes, if I remember right). That’s a far cry from the grade 5 through grade 8 students you usually find in the music room before school, during lunch and recess, during the first hour of classes, and after school.

Once the houses are built on that corner lot, more people will move in and they’ll be happy they could find a place to live. They won’t know about the tree swing, or the climbing branches that used to be there. But hopefully their children will have the choice to attend an award-winning band, practicing music with other students and a passionate teacher!

If you happen to be someone who appreciates music and the efforts of students and teachers who have supported Sunnyside’s program in the past, please write the administration (emails below)! We need to preserve this unique music program from demolishment, not just this year, but for decades to come.,,,,,,,,,,,

Lack of resources for children near new South Surrey elementary school

The snazzy-looking Sunnyside Elementary school building was built at a cost of $14.9 million, to hold up to 450 students.

Sunnyside Elementary School
Front view of Sunnyside in June 2014 before massive area development

Only two years later it is seriously overcrowded, with over 600 students expected this September. In order to make space for those students, 6-10 portables are being sandwiched in on the small grounds (with one small playground, by the way). The highly-lauded music program there is constantly under threat, salvaged only by the diligent efforts of passionate parents, an astounding music teacher, and students who practice every free moment. Other schools in the area face similar challenges.

Rumour has it that the music program may be moved out to a portable this year. Next month we’ll see whether or not that’s true. The portables contrast starkly with the modern architectural design of the original building.

They have no air conditioning or heat. One of my twitter followers said that was absurd, so I confirmed it with a student who was in the that class. She said the only electricity they had was lights and a broken phone. They wore jackets in winter to keep warm, and boiled when it was hot. It was really crowded, too.

Developers don’t get any money for the portables, I guess, because public buildings are astonishingly fancy.

Inside of the new Surrey City Hall, cost over $90 million

Developers insist there aren’t enough houses, and they’re right. People are thrilled that they can buy a townhouse here for under $800,000.


What they’re not thrilled about is how little the city of Surrey has prepared for the children they bring with them. The Sunnyside Parents Facebook Group has a couple posts from parents worried about finding before and after-school care for their children. The latest one said all the childcare spaces near the school are full. I hope she finds something before September!


Several parents I’ve talked to have read the news (thank you, local newspapers like Peace Arch News and Surrey Now), and they decided to enroll their children in Catholic schools or other private schools instead of Sunnyside. But for the parents who didn’t research the issues around Surrey’s massive urbanization efforts, several unpleasant surprises may await as they get ready for the upcoming school year.

On the positive side, I can say for certain that parents already at the school, and the ever-helpful staff and teachers, will do all they can to help new families feel welcome, and to get the help and information they need.

Meanwhile, please keep writing letters to the provincial and city governments about the problems faced by families moving into these newly-densified areas.