Overcrowded Wellington school forced to convert library to classroom

Wellington's  Houghton Valley School has had to convert its library into a classroom to make room for extra students this year. Photo / Google
Wellington's Houghton Valley School has had to convert its library into a classroom to make room for extra students this year. Photo / Google

A crowded Wellington primary school has had to convert its library into a classroom to make room for all the extra students this year.

Now, it's putting out the call for a caravan or small truck to keep some library books in.

Houghton Valley School want to keep the library books accessible to students, so are hoping to display them in a pop-up library truck once students move into the space.

Chair of the school's board of trustees, Sarah Graydon, said some of the books and library space were still accessible to children.

"The library will be a perfectly nice classroom space and there will be some access for the children to still be able to use the library. Obviously we would prefer not to be doing that but the kids in that class will still have a good learning environment in a nice classroom," Graydon said.

She was unsure how long the children would have to remain in the library, but it would be "certainly for the rest of the year, unless someone magics us up an extra classroom . . . they don't just turn up overnight".

"We certainly expect it to be an issue for the next few years."

While they still currently have enough classrooms for the children, it was inevitable that as the year progressed, they would have to reshuffle rooms and put a class into the library, so Graydon said they would rather start the year with kids in the library than disrupt them halfway through.

She said the information the Ministry of Education had was that the increase in children on the roll was a "demographic bulge or blip", and the roll might decrease in later years, but Graydon said it was "hard to know" if the numbers would actually decrease later.

She was not expecting the school to be given help any time soon.

"I'm certainly not holding my breath."

The situation with the library was "not ideal, but it's not the end of the world either".

Graydon was aware student numbers would "grow and shrink", but thought it was "a shame" there was not some "agile" option for schools to meet changing demands.

The school's home and school association has put a call out on Facebook for a caravan or small truck to keep some of the books in while the library is being used.

Principal of Balmoral School in Auckland, Malcolm Milner, said he was expecting he'd have to put students into the library at the end of term two if nothing had been done about the overcrowding problem.

Two mobile classrooms were put on the school's field in August on temporary piles, but the school has been unable to use the rooms until the Ministry of Education organised permanent piles for them.

However, Milner received an email on January 12 stating the Ministry had been unable to get resource consent to do so, and the quote from the contractor to put the rooms onto piles was too high, so they would be trying for a lower price.

Meanwhile, one of his seven year five and six classes had to be moved to the new entrants' room, about 150m away from the rest of their year group.

By the time more students joined later in the year, if the mobile classrooms were not ready, he would be moving students into the library.

"My job is to keep the school running as effectively as possible with the least amount of disruption," he said.

"We've got plans in place."

While the mobile classrooms might be ready by the end of term two, Milner was not counting on it and was preparing to move the children.

"It needs to be realised that in Auckland especially, we've got a problem with people being able to do the job now . . . the Ministry may need to look at its budget."

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said it was "not okay" for schools to be having to use libraries as classroom.

"It's certainly a symptom of the overcrowding that's going on in schools," she said.

"The education is bursting at the seams ... it's not okay for a school to have to use a library for a classroom."

Delahunty said school libraries and books were "the backbone for kids' learning".

The Government must address school roll growth, she said.

"I don't think we can be confident that these are just blips ... we have an increasing population."

Head of sector enablement and support at the Ministry of Education Katrina Casey said Houghton Valley School was looking for a temporary solution to a peak in its roll later in the year, and it was expected to start declining again from next year.

"The school is exploring the idea of erecting a pop-up library on its site," she said.

"Its home and school association has posted a Facebook message seeking a caravan, truck or container to house a library for students to visit.

"The school has described the idea to us as a 'fun' way to house their collection of books."

For any school that wants to limit its size, it can consider adjusting the boundaries for its enrolment scheme to take less children," she said.

"Houghton Valley School [is] looking at tweaking the boundaries of its enrolment zone to limit the size of its roll in future.

"We met with the school's board of trustees in December to talk about what the school would like to do.

"Like any school experiencing growth, a new classroom isn't always the best solution if growth is expected to be short-term in nature.

"The Government's investment in new schools and new classrooms is running at all-time highs, with $5 billion spent on school property across New Zealand since 2008."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 30 May 2017 02:39:55 Processing Time: 393ms