Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Christchurch earthquake: School's out as parents look elsewhere

Shirley Boys High School has been  Photo / Sarah Ivey
Shirley Boys High School has been Photo / Sarah Ivey

Schools and kindergartens across Christchurch will keep their gates closed today and there is no word on when they will reopen.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said 34 state, integrated and independent schools had major damage, with some needing to be completely rebuilt.

One hundred other schools suffered minor damage.

Mrs Tolley said it was not as simple as just getting schools fixed.

"It's not just dependent on the school's structure being safe, there's also the infrastructure, the roading network for people to get there and staffing as well."

Schools in the neighbouring districts of Waimakariri and Selwyn have the option of opening tomorrow if they can satisfy health and safety requirements.

There are 215 schools across the three districts and they have a total of about 76,000 students.

The ministry could not confirm when schools in Christchurch could re-open and said each one would be treated on a case-by-case basis.

"We're asking for some flexibility around schools. We'll certainly try to keep schools together as much as we can, but we're looking at bringing in re-locatable classrooms, or using spaces that schools have [which are not damaged]," Mrs Tolley said.

"It's going to be a bit of a mix-and-match."

However, parents seem unwilling to wait and already 170 students have been enrolled in schools outside Christchurch.

Christ's College headmaster Simon Leese said it was a "reasonable choice" for parents to want to send their children elsewhere.

"We're working towards reopening and the parents will reconsider what they want to do in the meantime. We've had some very reasonable offers from other schools around the country to house boarders temporarily," Mr Leese said.

While some were looking elsewhere, Mr Leese said the support from the school community has been overwhelming.

South New Brighton School is being assessed by engineers tomorrow and its principal John Bockett is worried about how it held up.

Even if the school has come through unscathed, he expects parents could move their children on.

"I've already had calls. One of my board members is enrolling up at Methven school. It's going to happen more and more. A lot of the community is gone, they've moved out."

Mr Bockett said a lot of his staff have had to stay out of the city.

"A lot of [my staff] don't have houses that are habitable - I couldn't staff the school at the moment."

- NZ Herald

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