By: Corazon Millar

Southern Cross Campus Principal Robin Stables talks with Year 12 student Jennifer Thonrithi. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Government’s partial redevelopment of the composite school could see junior technology classes bowled – with no plans for replacement finalised.

Principal Robin Staples said the classes were a vital part of the curriculum for its 600 junior students.

“We don’t have anywhere to go for these classes and that’s not on for our students.”

He said by mid-2018 the school would have “shiny new buildings, in part, but the rest of it still rotting and unaddressed”.

Staples wanted a detailed plan that would see the remainder of buildings replaced, including a junior technology block.

Years after problems were first identified, and the Ministry of Education [MoE] notified, students and staff alike were making-do with leaky buildings that had to be repeatedly patched up.

“We are caught with over half the schools with really damp rooms that are flooded through carpets in winter.

“They have mould inside the walls and though we are covering it up and trying to make sure it doesn’t impact on the learning environment, it’s still there.”

Year 12 student Jennifer Thonrithi, 16, said while students were doing their best it was hard working in damp, run-down buildings.

“Obviously having to work in these conditions is degrading … I think it is really important for us to be able to work in an environment where we can believe we are able to succeed.”

A walk around school grounds showed a cluster of long-standing prefabs in muddy fields, cracked pavements, flooded grounds and classrooms with peeling, cracked ceilings and walls.

Meanwhile an air-quality report into one of the affected rooms in the school’s D-block showed it was unusable.

Staples said limited space for the 1600 students at the decile one primary and secondary school meant it was simply cleaned of mould and boarded with plywood.

“But it is still rotting in the back … we need to address the real issue that the building is rotting.”

It’s one of a cluster of buildings with weathertightness issues he said would still be in use after the school’s partial redevelopment – unless alternative plans were made.

When Staples first spoke to the Herald, he said MoE had not committed to a final plan.

The morning after a request for comment was lodged with the ministry, the principal received written confirmation it was working to have a completed plan by the end of the year.

The ministry’s head of Education Infrastructure Service Kim Shannon told the Herald a “detailed, extended property master plan” would be completed this year.

While Staples was hopeful of progress he said plans had stalled before.

Answers to written questions in Parliament show the Government was first notified of the leaky building issue in 2008.

It was the same year a promise was made to inject up to $6m on developing a Trades Academy for senior students to develop practical skills at the school – the programme was established in 2011 and a new building finally opened seven years later in 2015.

In 2013, then-Minister for Tertiary Education Skills and Employment, Steven Joyce, said, in response to another written question, it was leading “a master planning process to address all property issues at the school”.

In 2014 the Government also promised to spend $23.5m on the campus to see 24 new teaching spaces built along with a new multi-purpose centre, library and administration facilities.

Construction on the $23.5m project began this year and would be completed in mid-2018.

Staples was “delighted” to get some new classrooms, but said without the final plan promised back in 2013 it became a “band-aid” approach that left the school with issues.

Labour Mangere MP Aupitio Su’a William Sio said it has been a struggle every step of the way for the school to get much-needed renovations for its buildings and to meet the demands of a growing roll.

“These are 40-year-old buildings that were never meant to be permanent.”

Source: NZ Herald


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