Lyall Bay School expansion under way
Work has finally begun on a long-awaited $1.1 million upgrade of Lyall Bay School.
Builders moved in on the Freyberg St site last week to begin erecting three new classrooms on a neighbouring piece of land, the start of an expansion more than four years in the making.
School principal Dennis Thompson said the school was "packed to the gunwales" and that it even used its hall and library to house three classes.
Mr Thompson contacted the Ministry of Education in mid- 2008 when a property adjacent to the school was up for sale.
"We thought it would be a really good asset for the school, to give us some scope to expand," he said.
However, the school hit a brick wall when the ministry rejected its proposal.
The ministry said that the addition of the land from the house would make the school site too narrow and suggested 30 per cent of the school's roll could go to another school.
"This was four years ago and basically we couldn't even get a yes/no from them on whether this would be a good purchase, so we called in Annette King, our local MP."
Mr Thompson said Ms King worked through the difficulties with the ministry.
"Without [Annette's] assistance that land would have been sold. There would probably be townhouses on it now."
But the battle was not over.
For two years the house sat on the purchased piece of land, because Mr Thompson was told it was the school's responsibility to arrange its removal.
It wasn't until a meeting with the Ministry of Education's head office that "residual funds" were made available to do the removal work.
After the building, which housed a squatter and was dubbed the "haunted house" by students, was finally taken away, the site sat as bare land for nearly two more years before building began last week.
The ministry was providing resources for two new classrooms, but the school would be adding an extra classroom to meet its needs, Mr Thompson said.
Ms King said helping the school was "a no-brainer".
"Lyall Bay is one of the schools in the electorate that is very popular, that is growing, that people want their kids to come to," she said.
- The Wellingtonian