School to challenge ministry's kindy call

NO SPACE: Pt Chevalier School plans to challenge the latest Ministry of Education decision to let a neighbouring kindergarten stay.
NO SPACE: Pt Chevalier School plans to challenge the latest Ministry of Education decision to let a neighbouring kindergarten stay.

A lengthy battle for land between two Auckland education providers looks set to continue as schools scramble to accommodate growing roll numbers.

Pt Chevalier School says it will ''challenge'' the Ministry of Education's recent decision not to evict Pt Chevalier Kindergarten after a saga spanning three years. 

In its latest newsletter and on its Facebook page, Pt Chevalier School board of trustees chairman Richard Green and principal Sandra Aitken says: ''... contrary to previous statements by the ministry, the Point Chevalier Kindergarten is not moving from our school site''.

''The board is extremely frustrated by this unexpected outcome,'' the statement says.

''This is not acceptable to us and therefore the board will be challenging both the decision itself and the process around it.'' 

The kindergarten leases part of a 1.6-hectare ground with the school.

In 2011 it was told by the ministry it would have to move to make way for a car park to accomodate the school's growing roll numbers.

But after intervention by then minister Anne Tolley, the ministry said the kindy would only have to move if a suitable site was found.

Aitken says the ministry's June 24 decision for the kindy to stay is ''frustrating''. 

''We're still talking with the ministry about it. It doesn't solve our problems of space.  We're not accepting it as it is at the moment,'' she says.

Auckland Kindergarten Association chief executive Tanya Harvey says about 15 alternative sites have been investigated but none were suitable.

The ministry came up with one option, near Western Springs College, but that was outside the Pt Chevalier community and there were safety concerns about the refuse fill beneath the land.

''We've exhausted one million and one options.

''It's been going on for three-plus years so we're relieved the ministry has come up with this decision.''

Harvey is concerned about ongoing space problems at the school and others in the area.

The kindy and association will continue to work with the Western Bays Reference Group, a ministry initiative, to find long-term solutions to accommodate the rising population of children in 18 schools in the Western Bays area.

''It's a tricky situation for everybody,'' Harvey says.

''We're aware it doesn't solve the issue that the school has.

''We still need to come up with a solution long term for the community.''

There are currently 675 students at Pt Chevalier School.

Another two to three classrooms will be needed to accommodate the 780 pupils projected by the end of 2016, Aitken says.

''We can't wait for a long-term option. We need something quick.''

Albert-Eden Local Board member Margie Watson says the ministry needs to ''front up and sort the problem''.

''The ministry has been putting their head in the sand for many years, hoping the problem would go away,'' she says.

Schools are ''bursting at the seams'', Watson says.

''All they're [the ministry] doing is sticking buildings on fields.

''The cost of doing that is that there's less space for the children to play.

''Ministry of Education spokeswoman Katrina Casey says the ministry will continue to look for a suitable site.

''It can sometimes be a difficult balancing act to meet the needs of families with very young children and those with school age children and we will ensure we do our very best to meet the needs of both groups. 

''Regardless of whether we can move the kindergarten we are committed to finding a solution to help manage the school's increasing roll, expected to reach its peak by 2016.''

Auckland City Harbour News