Crowded rolls and a lack of classrooms in schools

"The garage" holds up to 14 students at Donovan Primary School as a make-shift teaching space while the ministry ...
Robyn Edie

"The garage" holds up to 14 students at Donovan Primary School as a make-shift teaching space while the ministry approves a new building.

Children at a school in Southland are being taught in a storage shed because classroom space is at capacity. 

At least three schools in Invercargill have had to convert libraries and halls into teaching spaces while they wait to hear if they will get approval from the Ministry of Education for new classrooms.

Waverley Park School has used its library, hall and staff room as teaching spaces for several years.

Donovan Primary School board of trustees chairperson Jill Wilkinson and principal Peter Hopwood in looking through to ...
Robyn Edie

Donovan Primary School board of trustees chairperson Jill Wilkinson and principal Peter Hopwood in looking through to the classroom which was built inside an old Skyline garage that was used in the 1980's as the caretakers garage.

Board of Trustees member Sally Bailey said at the end of 2016 it had a roll of about 300 students, which overcrowded classrooms.

They were told by the ministry to utilise the "floor space" they had, which included an outside covered corridor, Bailey said.

But in winter especially, it would be be too cold and unrealistic to teach outside, she said.

And using the hall as a classroom was a hassle to pack up for music and sports events, she said.

"It would be fantastic to have an extra building. There's space there."

The school had applied for a new building to the Ministry of Education, she said.

On Wednesday, Ministry of Education head of education infrastructure service Kim Shannon said the Government had invested about $5 billion to increase, upgrade and expand school property in New Zealand.

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The schools made the decisions to utilise libraries or other facilities to provide short-term solutions while classrooms were built, she said.

But some schools have reported waiting up to a year, if not years to get approval for new rooms.

"Prioritisation of roll growth funding is given to schools in the greatest need of additional space where they are expected to experience ongoing growth," Shannon said.

The Ministry put the problem of overcrowding back on schools that accepted out-of-zone students.

Shannon said the Ministry helped schools manage rolls through the enrolment schemes and additional classrooms were provided to accommodate the numbers of student schools have within their zones. 

But, if schools accepted additional students from outside the zones they needed to ensure they had enough room for all of their students to learn comfortably, she said.

Donovan Primary School is getting one new classroom this year as its growing roll has lead to overcrowding.

Principal Peter Hopwood in the interim it had used a library and storage shed to house students.

The school had had an influx of five year olds starting school in recent years and families moving to the area were possible causes to the growing roll. 

"We just get on with it. It's not ideal but schools are not ideal places, they're full of people," he said.

The school had build two permanent buildings and two modular buildings during the past two years.

Donovan Primary School board of trustees chairperson Jill Wilkinson said it had been a long process to get approval for the buildings.

"We have had to make new teaching spaces and adapt to new teaching spaces ... it's certainly not been easy," she said.

The two modular buildings took over a year to be installed from when they applied.

The ministry gave a grant of $8000 for furniture which sounds like a lot but it did not cover much, she said.

"It's the bare minimum."

Rather than squashing more children into a classroom, especially young ones, the school's best interest was in utilising what space they had to house more classrooms, she said.

Waihopai School faced the same crowding challenges in 2014.

Deputy principal Sarah Gibbs said during that year the school had an open zone which meant a "massive" roll.

The school library was turned into a classroom and the staff room into the library to accommodate the numbers, she said.

After 2014 the school was reluctant to take out-of-zone students after having a roll of about 380 students that year.

"We don't like turning people away but we're here to do whats best for our current students."

Forcing schools to turn libraries into classrooms showed how they felt about the value of a library in a school, she said.

"What kid wants to start school in a library?" 

The government had lots of "rules and conditions" that made it difficult to get extra rooms to resolve the issue.

"Unfortunately getting a new classroom isn't that easy," she said.

 

 

 - Stuff

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