Repaired Linwood College ready for classes

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2011
Margaret Paiti, principal, and Michael Rondel, commissioner of Linwood College
John Kirk-Anderson

Margaret Paiti, principal, and Michael Rondel, commissioner of Linwood College, in one of the buildings that has been earthquake strengthened by steel cross braces.

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Almost $1 million has been spent repairing Linwood College so pupils can return on Monday for the first time since February 22.

Pupils and teachers were forced to move to Cashmere High School in March, after Linwood College's buildings were riddled with cracks following aftershocks caused by the February 22 earthquake.

Silt caused by liquefaction also came up throughout the school, including under the hall and on the field.

Naylor Love Construction spent the past nine weeks fixing the school and has had more than 40 people at a time working, site manager Iain Chapman said yesterday. Every crack in the school's buildings had been inspected and the plaster stripped away, to see if they were cosmetic or structural. Most cracks needed more work, Chapman said. More than 200 lineal metres of epoxy, a type of resin, had been injected into the walls and columns to fill the cracks. Some 39 steel cross braces, each weighing about 200 kilograms, had also been erected throughout the ground floor of the two-storey main block. They would make the whole building move as one.

New carpet had also been laid, internal walls repainted and new asphalt laid in parts of the school.

A spokesman for the Education Ministry said it had spent $900,000 on the school and expected further costs in the longer term.

Principal Margaret Paiti said most of the work was now covered over, but a strip of bare concrete where epoxy had been injected would be covered in glass so people could see what had been done.

She said she was ecstatic about the school moving back home.

"It's part of that going forward in the recovery and rebuild."

The hall would remain off limits because of liquefaction underneath the floorboards. The school would use its gymnasium for assemblies.

Chapman said three workers spent about five weeks crawling under the hall to remove the silt by hand, only for it all to return in the June 13 quakes.

A separate block of 12 classrooms would also be out of action, because the Education Ministry had yet to decide its future.

Paiti said the school would be able to work around the loss of those classrooms because its roll had fallen, like many other schools in the eastern suburbs.

On February 22, Linwood College had 1060 pupils. When the term ended two weeks ago it had 800. Paiti said she hoped pupils who had been unable to get to Cashmere and had temporarily enrolled in other secondary schools, would return on Monday.

International pupil numbers have also fallen dramatically, which has reduced the school's income by about $500,000. Linwood had 75 international fee-paying pupils last year. It had been expecting 56 this year and now has 10.

Paiti said no staff had been made redundant, but numbers had reduced with natural attrition.

Commissioner still in charge after five months

Christchurch's Linwood College is still being run by a commissioner five months after its board was "temporarily replaced".

Education Minister Anne Tolley sacked the board in March because it took too long to relocate the school to the Cashmere High School site. However, the commissioner also failed to meet the relocation deadline.

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Janet Kelly was appointed as commissioner, but has been replaced by Christchurch's Michael Rondel.

When Tolley dumped the board, she said it was a short-term measure and the board was being "temporarily replaced".

However, there was no mechanism to reinstate the board and an open election would have to be held.

Rondel said yesterday he would not commit to an election date, but expected it would be this year.

He wanted to wait until the school had settled back at its site and addressed financial and property issues.

"It's not fair to put a board in place when there are significant issues to deal with.

"They don't have to be resolved, but there needs to be that pathway forward."

It was up to the commissioner to call an election, but the Education Ministry had to approve the removal of the commissioner and agree the school was ready to be governed by a board.

Rondel agreed that having the school run by a commissioner could be perceived as negative.

However, he said the school's day-to-day running was not affected by a commissioner.

Former board chairman Tim Anderson said it was time for the school to be run by a democratically elected board.

"Let the community make the decisions and get on with managing their school. There was never any good reason to put a commissioner in place."

- The Press

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