'Quite astonishing what you can do'
Almost a month after fire destroyed a James Hargest College building, pupils have returned to school in makeshift classrooms.
Principal Andy Wood said a significant amount of time and money had been spent before the start of the term, rearranging the undamaged areas of the school into temporary classrooms.
Part of the library had been commandeered and staff had transformed one of the school's corridors into a functional computer room, he said.
To remodel the corridor, walls had been built at either end of the passage, and the area had been retrofitted with cables and benches for the computer gear.
Lockers had been torn out to create more floorspace, and, although there were no windows, there were skylights in the ceiling, he said.
"It's quite astonishing what you can do when you have to."
A shed, intended to be used for sports gear storage, would also be used as another temporary classroom when it was constructed.
As the $1.5 million burnt block was scheduled to contain specialist rooms, such as food technology areas and computer suites, it had been difficult to find appropriate learning spaces in the remaining buildings, Mr Wood said.
Pupils still had to bus to the junior campus for food technology classes, but other areas of the senior school, such as the hall and cafeteria, were available as backup if things became desperate.
The Ministry of Education's insurance had covered the costs of the rearrangements, so the school was not left out of pocket, he said.
Mr Wood did not expect the unusual learning spaces to affect pupils' education, especially since the makeshift classrooms were in place from the beginning of the school year.
"Young people are often more resilient than adults when it comes to adapting to change like this."
He could not speculate on the future of the ruined block, as the ministry was responsible for choosing how to replace the classrooms and had not yet made a decision.
It was still working on costing the available options, a task made more complex because the building's renovation was not completed when it caught fire, he said.
However, he believed new classrooms would be ready for use later this year.
The Southland Times