More than $5 million has been spent on extra teaching spaces to help with Tauranga's rapidly growing school rolls in the past two years - with a further $16m promised for a new school in the area.
School libraries and halls have been repurposed due to rapidly growing rolls and principals say extra space was "essential" as enrolments are not slowing down.
Since Budget 2017, major investments have been made in Tauranga for the new Taumata School in Pyes Pā, expanding Golden Sands School, increasing capacity at Papamoa College and extra teaching spaces at Pillans Point School.
The Ministry of Education has spent more than $5m on more teaching spaces and redevelopment projects at Tauranga schools in the past two years and last year announced $16m would be spent on relocating and expanding Brookfield School on to a new site.
In June, $4.8m was approved for a new teaching block and the internal renovation of two existing buildings at Pillans Point School.
Principal Matt Simeon said the project involved building a new six-classroom teaching block, a staffroom, and refurbishing the school library, which had been turned into a classroom.
Though it had taken some time to start construction, Simeon said they had to ensure the site was used in the "most effective way" to help cater for a growing school roll.
"[The new teaching block] is hugely important for the school because it means we can now actively set ourselves up for the future.
"Having the blocks set and established means we will be able to set the school up once and for all."
Simeon said a big group of 5-year-olds had enrolled at the school and two classes had been moved back into the hall to be able to cater to the roll growth.
"I don't know of any school that's slowing down, let's put it that way."
Te Wharekura o Mauao principal Heywood Kuka said the process of building six new classrooms for 108 extra students had begun.
Kuka said the school roll was at about 260, which was about 30 to 40 students above what it should be.
"There are another 30 to 40 kids on the waiting list. We are really struggling for space at the moment."
The biggest intake had been in the Year 7 to 9 age group, he said.
The six new teaching spaces would include four that were dedicated to roll growth and two specialised technology spaces for subjects including science.
Kuka said the school had lost some students to mainstream schools because it did not have the capacity to run specialist subjects.
"Our science and technology spaces have not been up to scratch.
"Having these specialist technology spaces is a really big win for us because it means we can keep a lot of our kids engaged in Māori-medium."
Golden Sands School will get about eight new classrooms to help accommodate a further 150 pupils.
Principal Melanie Taylor said a few "prefab" buildings were on-site to help take the overfill while the new teaching spaces were being built, which was expected to start in the next few months.
Taylor said the school's roll of about 660 was tracking a class ahead of last year and there was another new entrant class starting this week that was already full.
"This new build is going to be absolutely essential. [The roll] is growing too fast," she said.
"They are coming in still pretty quickly. Some families did delay their new entrants starting because of Covid and we are seeing that pick up now."
Taumata School principal Gen Fuller said the Pyes Pā school opened in February last year with 150 students and has since experienced "exponential growth", rising 150 per cent in just 18 months.
"We started 2020 with 330 students and today we have 390 students."
Fuller anticipated further roll growth in the next 12 months due to the many subdivisions being developed in the area.
"Taumata School was established to meet the demand of large-scale residential developments in this area and to alleviate some of the pressure on surrounding schools."
Papamoa College principal Steve Lindsey said his school's roll had grown by 130 students to 1545 since 2019 and he expected that to increase by a further 100 students a year.
Relocatable teaching spaces had been brought on to campus to cater for the extra students.
"Clearly the roll has grown rapidly due to the increased number of people shifting into Pāpāmoa as a result of the ongoing residential building development.
"There is no reason to think that this growth will slow down in the short term."
In 2018 and 2019, the Ministry of Education's capital spend on school property in Tauranga City was more than $5m.
That included about $2.15m on projects to expand the number of student places, $1.27m on Ministry-led redevelopment of existing school buildings and $2.1m for school-led projects.
Budget 2019 funded $37m for 35 roll-growth classrooms (698 student spaces) across the Ministry's Waiariki region, which included Tauranga. That included classrooms at ordinary state schools, kura, and at a special school.
Deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said Tauranga had experienced high population growth for many years.
"We have developed a National Education Growth Plan (NEGP) to 2030, which identifies what we know from a range of sources about the anticipated location and nature of patterns of growth in school-aged children, as well as identifying measures that the Government may need to consider in order to meet the growth in the period through to 2030."
Casey said Tauranga had three of 39 high growth catchments identified in the NEGP - Tauranga, Otumoetai and Pāpāmoa.
"We are planning to meet the forecast growth and demand through a mixture of new schools, expansions at schools and roll-growth classrooms."
Tauranga's Brookfield School has been given $16m to expand and relocate to a nearby site to provide capacity for an extra 325 pupils.
Last September, education minister Chris Hipkins announced the relocation and expansion of Brookfield School as part of wider plans to address the Bay of Plenty's roll growth.
The Ministry of Education's head of education infrastructure service, Kim Shannon, said the new school would have 25 new teaching spaces, including Māori immersion teaching spaces.
"The school will initially have capacity for 550 students, but will be planned, so it can be expanded in the future if needed.
"We are finalising the appointment of the Design and Construction lead and anticipate a contract will be in place in the coming weeks."
Shannon said the next step was to work with the school to develop a master plan for the new facilities. A timeline for construction and the opening of the new school was yet to be confirmed.
Brookfield School principal Ngaere Durie said she was working closely with the ministry and directed the Bay of Plenty Times' questions to them for comment.
As part of ongoing strategic planning, and since Budget 17, major investments have been made in the Tauranga area. These include:
· Taumata School, a new primary school in Pyes Pā that opened in 2019, with capacity for 400 students
· Expanding Golden Sands School to accommodate an additional 150 students, through the delivery of six new teaching spaces
· Providing five extra teaching spaces at Pillans Point School
· Increasing the capacity of Papamoa College to 1500 students, through the delivery of 14 new teaching spaces
Source: Ministry of Education