Main block demolition costly

Senior staff at Golden Bay High School are philosophical about the removal of their nine-classroom main block because of its failure to meet the Building Code’s earthquake safety requirements.

A structural mitigation survey found that the building was calculated to meet just three per cent of the code’s required structural strengths.

The concrete-block building, which also contained the staffroom, a workroom, photocopying facilities, a dark room and storage areas, was demolished during the summer holidays at a cost of $500,000.

‘‘My understanding was if a school building met 66 per cent, they wouldn’t do anything, but if it was anything less, they would have concerns,’’ said deputy principal Stuart Machin.

The decision to stop using the block was made almost overnight, he said.

‘‘This report went to the desk of the local ministry office on Wednesday, June 29, 2011, and by Thursday, June 30, we received messages from the Ministry of Education office in Wellington saying we couldn’t use it any more.

‘‘We were down to eight classrooms.

‘‘We had to roster kids home, because we couldn’t accommodate them.

‘‘We were in turmoil around this time.

‘‘The ministry came up with a solution – pre-fabs.’’

Classrooms, originally built for Christchurch, were transported from Matamata and set down on the school netball courts, two tennis courts and a car park.

‘‘Within three weeks, the classrooms were up and running. We thought they were very temporary at the time.’’

While the classrooms were ‘‘perfectly good teaching spaces’’, Machin was also aware they were put on to the ‘‘social heart of the school’’.

‘‘Would we have planned to do this? No. While [the building] was standing, we explored a number of options, such as knocking it down, strengthening it.

‘‘It could have been strengthened, but it wouldn’t have been very nice. It never looked very nice anyway.’’

Golden Bay High School now faces a severe reduction in its five-year capital works budget, but there has been no direct affect on the school’s operating budget.

‘‘Most of the money in our five-year plan is gone. This demolition process is incredibly expensive. It took just over $1 million to put up the pre-fabs.

‘‘It took more than $500,000 to knock down the building, because of attention to services.’’

While Mr Machin did notagree with the decision to deconstruct the block, he understood the Ministry of Education staff were only doing their jobs.

‘‘That building was as strong as the day it was built, but sensitivity to earthquake risk and building codes have changed.

‘‘In the end, I don’t think we’re best serviced by the ministry, but it operates differently from us.

‘‘Because of the way the ministry works, there’s a difference between the perceived needs of the students and staff and what the school needs to keep running,’’ he said.

‘‘As a senior teacher, I deal with kids. All the processes of the world will never address the needs of kids and staff.

‘‘The people in the Ministry of Education are not nasty people. They’re following policy. They were quick to respond. They kept the school going. They have done the best they can, given the circumstances.

‘‘The building code was becoming more stringent anyway, but the earthquakes in Christchurch heightened sensitivities. It’s a very common thing now [to tear down buildings].

‘‘If you stand back and look at it, in some ways we’re fortunate. We’ve got new classrooms, now, and we’ve come through the adversity.

‘‘The students themselves have been brilliant.’’

The Nelson Mail