Ministry says no to school's plan
The Government will not replace the earthquake-risk building Golden Bay High School had to close.
The Education Ministry says the school is over its property allocation but West Coast Tasman MP Damien O'Connor says it has been given a raw deal.
The rejection means the school will have to work with its existing buildings and find space for a staffroom and other facilities that staff have been without for more than a year.
Last year a two-storey, eight classroom teaching block, built in the 1960s, was closed when it was found to only achieve 3 per cent of the standards set in the Building Act to withstand earthquake damage.
Four pre-fabricated teaching blocks, each containing two classrooms, were quickly brought on site to act as temporary replacements, but staff have been without staff rooms, toilets and other facilities since the older block was closed.
The older building will be demolished in the summer break, but its demolition had been complicated as it contained the school's main electricity and water supply which had to be redirected before it could be demolished.
Principal Roger File said the ministry had rejected a plan to construct more buildings for staff because the school had exceeded the maximum amount of space it is allowed based on its roll, now at 339 students.
"We can't add any new buildings; we have got to look at the space we have got and how we can use it."
Mr O'Connor said the school had been given a raw deal by the ministry after dealing very well with a difficult situation.
"They have put through a plan, that in my view is sensible, to the ministry but had it rejected on spurious grounds."
While the ministry was no doubt under financial pressure from the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, that did not mean the children of Golden Bay should suffer, Mr O'Connor said.
Mr File said the school had been over code already before the building was closed last year, and the pre-fabricated classrooms - now at the school permanently - took up more area than the old rooms.
"I guess we're disappointed, but we have to put that behind us and work towards ensuring that we remain functioning and achieving well.
"It's set us back a bit. Our main focus is to make sure that there's as little disruption to learning as possible."
If the school could find the money to construct a new building from an alternative source, the ministry would not pay for the building's upkeep, he said.
"We would like to be able to expand our facilities and give our staff a workplace that they need, but we're going to have to look at other spaces in the school.
"We have to make the best out of what we have got."
While it was disappointing, Mr File said he could see the ministry's position.
There were no doubt other schools around the country dealing with such problems, and the ministry also had to deal with the massive problem of leaky buildings.
"We're certainly not the only school in this situation."
The school would work with the ministry, and its own architect and project manager, to come up with a solution, he said.
A ministry spokesman said it had to ensure every dollar invested in school property was spent effectively and that guidelines are applied fairly across the country.
All new school buildings were designed using a formula based on a school's roll and building plans presented by the school exceeded the space required.
Ministry staff had met with the school and board and took a detailed site assessment.
The prefabricated blocks provided to the school were new and the advantages of these new buildings are that they meet modern learning environment standards.
The ministry was making a nationwide assessment of school property and a total figure was not yet known.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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