A Whangārei-based school for children and young people with additional needs will be opening a unit in the Mid North thanks to a $20 million Government investment which will see nine schools get new classrooms.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced around $20m for 27 roll growth classrooms at nine Northland schools as part of the Government's commitment to a long-term plan that will see brand new schools and classrooms built, to meet demand for around 100,000 children entering schools over the next 10 years.
In Northland, Maungaturoto School and Te Kura o Waikare will be getting one new classroom each; Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Pukemiro, Whangārei Intermediate and Kamo Intermediate will be getting two each; Maunu School and Onerahi School will each get four; Blomfield Special School will get five new classrooms; and Bream Bay College will be getting six new classrooms.
Sally Wilkinson, principal of Blomfield Special School - which provides personalised and inclusive learning for children and young people with additional needs - was excited about the new classrooms.
The school's base is on Maunu Rd in Whangārei but it has satellite classrooms at Morningside Primary School, Manaia View School, Kamo High School, Kaitaia Primary School and Kaitaia College.
Now it will be opening a double primary unit at Oromahoe School and there are plans for something in Dargaville and at the base school.
"We've been trying to get some movement on a Mid North unit for a long time and we have been in limbo for some parents who can't get their children in to us. So it's just a real relief that we can give some certainty to those whānau in the Mid North."
Wilkinson said there was already a whole class of students from the base school who travelled from the Moerewa area every day.
She there was a lot of demand from whānau living in other areas of Northland who couldn't access the Whangārei base or satellite schools.
"Those families don't have the option of attending unless we set up a satellite and they're very keen to have their children come to us, especially at the junior level," she said.
Wilkinson said the school can only take students with ORS (Ongoing Resourcing Scheme) funding, and said she was getting inquiries daily.
"We've got to the position where we've had to turn people down because our junior classrooms are very full," she said.
Meanwhile, Bream Bay College principal Wayne Buckland said the six classrooms the school is getting would take them to a roll of about 640, which should be achieved in two or three years' time.
"The board has planned to allow for roll growth. We built our own whare which is the equivalent of four classrooms [and was] finished last year," he said.
"We have also sold two more school houses and are redeveloping three prefabs to an innovative learning environment [ILE] classroom block. We are in negotiations to convert three more prefabs also to a year 8 block."
According to Ministry of Education statistics, the school's roll has grown from 450 in 2014 to 524 last year.
Buckland said the six new classrooms will be five labs and a food technology room.
This funding is the latest in a number of new building announcements for Northland schools.
Last year the Government allocated more than $16m to rebuild part of Kamo High School and provide extra classrooms for Hikurangi School, Morningside School and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Pukemiro.
Meanwhile, in 2017 then Prime Minister Bill English and Nikki Kaye, who was Education Minister at the time, announced more than $50m for a rebuild of Whangārei Boys' High School.