New home for Christchurch boys' school

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
Shirley Boys' High School

OUT OF ACTION: The Shirley Boys' site is considered too risky to justify spending millions to try to make it quake-proof.

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Shirley Boys’ High School is set to get a new home after land reports show it has no long-term future at its North Pde site.

Principal John Laurenson said yesterday that the school, which has about 1280 pupils, would move to a yet-to-be-determined site in about four years.

A geotechnical report released to the school on Monday found it would cost $12.5 million or more to make the land stable enough to build a school on.

Even then there was no guarantee the land would be able to ride out another earthquake, Laurenson said.

‘‘The school does not have a long-term future on that site,’’ he said.

However, the land appears to be more stable at Avonside Girls’ High School after its geotechnical report, released to the school this week, indicated that it would be cost-effective to rebuild on its existing Avonside Dr site.

Both schools had to leave their grounds after the February 2011 earthquake and share sites with other schools.

Shirley Boys’ High returned in September 2011 after about $2m was spent making it safe.

Avonside Girls’ High returned at the beginning of last year after $10m was spent on demolishing damaged buildings and erecting 60 new ones.

Laurenson is optimistic about the future of Shirley Boys’ High after the Ministry of Education acknowledged during a meeting on Monday with him and board chairman Tony Deavoll that there was a need for a boys’ school to serve eastern Christchurch.

‘‘That for us is huge. We are hearing that a state boys’ school is seen by the ministry as desirable in the east,’’ he said.

He was not sad about the school moving from its site, where it has been operating since it was established in 1957.

‘‘The great thing about life is that life is fluid and dynamic and changeable,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s cool. We have got a chance to develop a brand-new school for the 21st century.’’

The school would remain on its existing site for the next four years, Laurenson said.

He did not think the ministry had yet considered where the school would be relocated.

A former Shirley Boys’ High pupil, Christchurch businessman Mike Pero, said it was a shame to move, but the culture of the school was not about its location; it was about its people.

‘‘I would like to think the school can re-establish somewhere in the neighbourhood,’’ he said.

Avonside Girls’ High  board of trustees chairman Tim Bergin said the school’s report found there was no geotechnical imperative to abandon the site, provided the redevelopment was restricted to the central zone.

The report said the cost to remediate the entire site would be in excess of $8m, but the cost of remediating the large central zone where the existing buildings were located was comparable with normal foundation costs at $1.7m.

‘‘It’s a big hurdle out of the way. Now it’s just a matter of being able to get a greater degree of certainty about the future of the school,’’ Bergin said.

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Education Minister Hekia Parata said she ‘‘obviously wanted to maintain the diversity of options at secondary school level in Greater Christchurch’’.

She said it was important to remember geotechnical data was only one piece of information the Government was using.

‘‘We are also factoring in declining rolls, population movement and future population growth, building issues, school locations, and the opportunities to create more modern schools with great new facilities,’’ she said.

Deputy secretary for regional operations Katrina Casey said the ministry had asked secondary schools in Christchurch to come up with proposals on their future.

‘‘I do not want to prejudge the outcome of this process. I can say that there will be single-sex provision within the Christchurch secondary network,’’ she said.

- The Press

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