Minister visits earthquake damaged Christchurch schools
JO GILBERT AND TRACEY COOPER
Education Minister Anne Tolley was visibly moved as she visited some of Christchurch's hardest-hit schools on Monday.
Holding her hands to her mouth and consoling teaching staff, Tolley said it was easy to sit in Wellington and talk about it "but it's better to come and see exactly what we're dealing with".
Tolley visited Shirley Boys' High, Shirley Intermediate and Avonside Girls' High, where she told principal Sue Hume: "I just feel so bad for you".
Hume said the school had been earthquake strengthened in the 1990s, yet many of the buildings had significant structural cracks visible on the exterior brick walls.
While structural engineers had yet to assess the school, many of the buildings looked beyond repair.
The 1240-pupil school was among 34 schools which had significant quake damage.
Tolley acknowledged while parents wanted to get their children back into learning as quickly as possible "just be a little patient with us".
She hoped to be able to provide advice before the end of the week but said it was not simply about opening schools which were undamaged.
They needed water, power and wastewater services and any reopening would increase the amount of traffic on wrecked and congested roads at 9am and 3pm.
The earthquake had left up to 15,000 students in limbo. Some had enrolled with the Correspondence School since the earthquake and the school was gearing up for more. Hundreds more had left Christchurch and were enrolled in schools in other regions. The damaged schools were still being assessed and it may turn out that some would be able to use some of their buildings in some way.
Tolley said the damage included sinkholes, liquefaction, split concrete, cracked buildings, collapsed roofs and other structural damage.
There had been no deaths and the only report of injury was a teacher who broke a toe, she said.
Meanwhile, the future for a twice quake-devastated Christchurch school is unclear. The 76-year-old Catholic school St Paul's shifted to a temporary home in the city after the September earthquake destroyed its Dallington site. But its safe haven, a special campus set up at Catholic Cathedral College on Ferry Rd, was hit hard in Tuesday's tremor.
"We don't know if we will have a school to go back to," said St Paul's School principal Chris Callaghan.
"We may not have a community."
Many pupils and their families lived in the badly damaged eastern suburb of Dallington, where numerous homes were ruined, she said.
Even if the St Paul's site was deemed safe, Callaghan said the teetering Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Barbadoes St and the unstable 90-metre-tall Hotel Grand Chancellor on Cashel St threatened the school.
Shirley Boys' High School staff to discuss students' education
Shirley Boys' High School has been extensively damaged by last Tuesday's earthquake, and staff will discuss options for the rest of the school year with the Ministry of Education today.
Principal John Laurenson said last night that the meeting would be crucial in deciding how pupils would continue their education this year.
"The site is extensively damaged .... There's major structural damage to several buildings, and the land is considerably damaged too," he said.
"It's not a site we can operate on. Sewerage lines have gone too and there's quite a few hundred tonnes of liquefaction material on the fields."
The tennis and squash courts were also badly damaged, Laurenson said.
Christchurch's badly damaged schools:
State: Avonside Girls' High, Banks Avenue, Burwood, Chisnallwood Intermediate, Christchurch Girls' High, Ferndale, Freeville, Heathcote Valley, Heaton Normal Intermediate, Manning Intermediate, Mt Pleasant, North New Brighton, Phillipstown, Shirley Boys' High, Shirley Intermediate, Shirley, St Martin's and Kaiapoi Borough.
State-integrated: St James' (Aranui), St Peter's (Beckenham), Christ the King (Burnside), St Mary's (Christchurch), St Paul's (city), Our Lady of the Assumption (Hoon Hay), Our Lady of Fatima (Mairehau), Our Lady of Victories (Sockburn), St Albans Catholic, Catholic Cathedral College and Marian College.
Independent: Christ's College, St Michael's Church School, Cathedral Grammar, Rangi Ruru Girls' School and St Andrew's College.
- The Press