High cost of leaky schools
As if the cost of education wasn't enough, up until June 30 the Ministry of Education had to fork out $155 million to fix leaky schools around the country.
It says 244 New Zealand schools have one or more buildings that are leaking or "affected by weather-tightness defects".
Of these, 47 are Auckland schools. The overall figure does not include schools with active legal cases.
Many of the leaky buildings were discovered during the $3 million National Schools' Weather Tightness Survey, which checked 5500 classrooms and buildings at 1647 schools. Another 142 schools across the country are suspected to be leaky and are being investigated.
Westmere Primary School principal Carolyn Marino is reminded of her school's leaky building issues when she sees the bubbling paint and rotten carpet in the staff room.
The school has seen rapid roll growth over the past couple of years, jumping from 400 pupils in 2009 to 660 today, meaning it was already eligible for new buildings from the Ministry of Education. However, as plans were being put together this year, leaky building tests revealed the 12-year-old administration block, library and one classroom were full of rotting timber.
Ms Marino says this discovery, though disappointing, has fast-tracked the building project.
"We negotiated with the Ministry and they are now looking at us as roll growth and leaky building combined."
As well as replacing the leaky buildings, the rebuild will involve pulling down 10 of the older classrooms and building 17 new ones in anticipation of an eventual school roll of 750. "The Ministry's looked at a holistic plan and asked, 'How can we pull these things together?' ... It will save them money and I commend them for that."
Ms Marino is looking on the bright side. On the walls of her office are sketches of the $5.5 million rebuild and she's happy with what she sees planned for the decile 10 school.
The Ministry of Education is responsible and liable for the project, which is out to tender. "I think that the Ministry taking more responsibility for the build and getting more consistency is important," she says.
"It frees me up to focus on managing the change and looking after my teachers. At the same time, I've been impressed by how much we are still at the table with them."
Work will begin this summer and is expected to be completed by July next year. "During the rebuild we will bring 15 relocatables on to the field," the principal says.
"That's the biggest challenge facing us: 660 children in very limited space."
A recent article in The Aucklander examined the plight of Western Springs College, which faces issues because of its location on a former landfill site and its leaky buildings. As the schools prepare for major rebuilds, they are meeting to streamline some of the design elements.
"We're talking about how our learning environments can be compatible, since that's where many of the children will end up going," says Ms Marino.
In the Rejuvenation of Schools' Infrastructure Proposal, dated March 7 this year, the Ministry of Education says: "It is estimated it is likely to cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion to repair or replace defective buildings modified between 1995 and 2005 which have weather-tightness issues." So far, the Ministry has been compensated through the Weathertight Homes Tribunal for eight of the buildings requiring fixes, for a total of $4.7 million.