Principal turns his office into a classroom for growing roll

Author
Simon Collins, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Oct 2020, 9:26PM
Ormiston Primary School students have been learning in the next-door Ormiston Junior College because there is no space for them in the primary school. Photo / Supplied
Ormiston Primary School students have been learning in the next-door Ormiston Junior College because there is no space for them in the primary school. Photo / Supplied

Principal turns his office into a classroom for growing roll

Author
Simon Collins, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Oct 2020, 9:26PM

A South Auckland school principal has given up his office and the school's staffroom for teaching spaces because of delays in building new classrooms.

Heath McNeil, of Ormiston Primary School, is now working in the school reception area and has turned part of the same area into a makeshift staffroom that can fit about 20 of the school's 80 staff.

"It's a bit of a logistical nightmare," he said. "Some of them will just come and heat their lunch and take it back to some other part of the school or eat in their classrooms because there's nowhere to sit."

About 200 students have been taught in the next-door school, Ormiston Junior College, until six prefabs are moved on to the primary school site next term, with four more prefabs due in the second term next year.

Explosive population growth in the school zone has pushed the roll up to 967 in buildings built for 720.

School board chair Russell Thomas says the school has been trying to get more buildings since its capacity was doubled from 360 to 720 in 2018, but without success.

He has now written to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, National's education spokeswoman Nicola Willis and the top officials in the Ministry of Education to try to get action.

"We were not due to be at 1000 [students] until 2028. We are already at 2028 capacity," he said.

"My leader of learning, the principal, has actually been living out of a corridor, and the teachers are also doing the same, so we now have a health and safety issue and an issue in terms of the work environment.

"It's not really good that the teachers don't have a break area and are standing around in a corridor."

Thomas said hundreds of new homes are being built in the school zone, which covers most of the area between Chapel Rd and Murphys Rd from north of Ormiston Rd south almost to Redoubt Rd.

McNeil said hundreds more apartments are planned in the Ormiston Town Centre which is now under construction.

"We thought it might slow with Covid, but it has just kept going at the same pace," he said.

"Today I'm in at school doing 14 family meetings [for new enrolments] and there are 27 new students starting at the start of the term."

Thomas said Ormiston would soon have as many people as Dunedin.

"The board is unable to strategically plan for the future when they don't know when the next stage of classroom development will be built or how many children it will be able to accommodate," he said.

"The board of trustees has offered to finance the design phase of the project but this offer has been repeatedly rejected by ministry officials.

"The only consistent response appears to be commissioning of another demand analysis report that quickly becomes outdated and the community and it's children start the waiting cycle again."

He said the ministry has still not decided whether to increase the school's capacity to 1000 or 1200.

The school's problems appear to be exceptional. Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Steve Hargreaves said he was not aware of any other schools with similar issues.

"I actually think, from the principals I talk to, it's going alright. The wheels turn slowly but no, I don't have anybody itching to complain," he said.

Hobsonville Point Primary School principal Daniel Birch said his school has had similar explosive growth to 880 students at the start of next term in spaces built for 690.

"We have just had six relocateables delivered, which has taken the pressure off," he said.

A new school due to open next year at nearby Scott Point will further relieve the pressure.

Papakura High School principal John Rohs, whose school was singled out by National Party leader Judith Collins in this week's Newshub leaders' debate as needing a rebuild, said he hoped the school would be rebuilt but it was not a priority in the five years he has been there.

"The condition of the school is actually very good," he said "I was quite surprised when I first arrived in Papakura at the beginning of 2015 to see what a really nice campus it actually is.

"The main issue really is, being quite a dated school, it is not fit for purpose as a modern school and for the needs that students have for their learning."

Ministry of Education acting head of education infrastructure Rob Campbell said the ministry was working closely with the Ormiston school to accommodate its growing roll.

"We are in the process of delivering six modular classrooms to address the immediate need at Ormiston Primary. These classrooms will be operational by the end of 2020," he said.

"A further four modular classrooms will be delivered and operational from Term 2, 2021.

"While this is being delivered, we are working with the school to plan for further expansion. We will meet with the school early in Term 4, 2020, to update them on this work."

 

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