School builds a storey up to preserve green space

By Lynley Bilby

Principal Sandra Aitken will open the year with six new classrooms. Photo / Doug Sherring
Principal Sandra Aitken will open the year with six new classrooms. Photo / Doug Sherring

When Sandra Aitken started teaching at Pt Chevalier Primary School in Auckland 20 years ago, it had 220 children.

Last month the final term ended with 706 children on its roll and by the end of this year they're expecting that to rise to 750 children. Another four terms later and that number is set to swell to 780 - a classroom's worth of extra children by the end of 2014.

To cope, the school is growing up - literally, with six new classes created through building above an existing block. Aitken, principal of one of Auckland's largest inner city primary schools on the smallest parcel of land, is days away from getting the keys.

The school's board of trustees had been determined not to shrink any more of the school's green space, hence the decision to go up.

She said they had precious little grassed field left after years of vital expansion on the school's 1.6ha. Last winter, a teacher and parent took about 60 children each lunchtime to play on the nearby Pt Chevalier Tennis Club carpark.

But the school's problems are not over. It is about to embark on a Ministry of Education zone review and is troubled by council's Auckland Plan, which threatens to fill the classrooms with even more children if high-density housing developments go ahead within its catchment.

But for now, Aitken is celebrating being able to start the year for the first time in 10 years with 32 classrooms ready and not a construction hat in sight.

- Herald on Sunday

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