Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Good news at last for Long Bay College

Fire crews at Long Bay College after the fire in its technology block last month. Photo / File
Fire crews at Long Bay College after the fire in its technology block last month. Photo / File

A school that has been hit by fire and three tragic deaths this year has finally got some good news - a $4 million repair job for its leaky classrooms.

Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye has approved the money to repair the science block, the administration block and the fire-damaged technology block at Long Bay College on Auckland's North Shore.

Principal Russell Brooke said the classrooms earmarked for repairs represented about 50 per cent of the school.

"The rest of the school is older and doesn't qualify for leaky buildings funding," he said.

The whole school closed for a day on February 24 after an early-morning fire which was reported to have left the technology block "in total ruins".

The school was already in shock after the deaths of French student Peyo Crus in a car crash in January, former student Rachael de Jong when the Aratiatia floodgates opened on the Waikato River on Waitangi Day, and long-time art teacher Kim Gray who died of cancer on February 12.

"We need good news. We need something to look forward to," Brooke said after the fire.

Prime Minister Bill English and Kaye visited the college on March 1 after announcing a new $3.8 million classroom block at the nearby Long Bay Primary School. Brooke said he asked the ministers to be "more clever and less rushed" about replacing the damaged technology block, given the school's longstanding leaky buildings problem.

"They agreed, and now we have a workable solution coming," he said.

He said the Education Ministry originally proposed a new multi-storey building to completely replace the three leaky blocks, but had now decided to repair the existing blocks instead.

"When they open them up they will see whether there is a bigger problem," he said.

"They will tell whether that is a solution, or whether that is a path to the future. I think our board has concurrence around that."

He said the fire actually destroyed only one classroom - the wood technology laboratory. The ministry initially offered two prefabs as a temporary replacement.

"They gave me two hours to accept or not accept the prefabs," he said.

He said the proposal would not have allowed the two prefabs to be joined safely, but the ministry had now agreed to provide prefabs that could be joined to provide a safe workshop in the next three weeks.

The college and the ministry are still discussing how the leaky building repairs need to be changed because of the fire.

"That's the $1 million question," Brooke said. "We are talking about a three-year programme. We can't wait three years. We are looking forward to sitting around the table."

Kaye said the options for the fire-damaged block "may range from repair through to replacement".

"The ministry is prioritising the work to address fire damage as soon as possible. This work will be paid for by the ministry, and will not impact progress on the $4m weathertightness upgrade already approved," she said.

"Work to introduce flexible learning spaces in the English, maths and media block will also start this year."

- NZ Herald

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