Five Northland schools will benefit from an $11m funding announcement by the government for new classrooms as students and teachers are struggling with a lack of learning space.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday promised $4m seven Short Term Roll Growth classrooms at four schools in Te Tai Tokerau – Ruakākā School, Whangārei Intermediate, Te Rangi Aniwaniwa in Awanui and Oruaiti School, west of Mangōnui – to "enable students and teachers to focus on education rather than overcrowding".
Kamo High School will receive $7m as part of that package for a major redevelopment for 22 new classrooms.
"All children deserve a suitable classroom to learn in and it is our responsibility to ensure they have that so they can get the best possible educational opportunities," Ardern said.
Together with Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis, Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime and Whangārei MP Emily Henderson, Ardern visited Ruakākā School today to meet students and share the good news.
All children agreed they wanted their two new classrooms to be pink.
Both Ardern and Davis admitted this was only a short-term fix. Fast-growing student numbers have left the school without a staff room.
"The staff have to meet outside," Huia Orr, Ruakākā School board member, said.
Within the last five years, the role has grown from around 190 students to 320.
"We have nine new students starting today," Orr said.
"We are in constant catch-up mode. This is a high-growth area and it's a challenge to accommodate for that. We now have to put classrooms where the kids play. "
The school is popular in the area not least for its inclusion programme (almost a third of students have additional learning needs) and the bilingual English-te reo classrooms.
While principal Marilyn Dunn welcomed the two new classrooms for her school, they won't provide a long-term solution for the role growth.
Minister Davis said a broader decision had to be made that addresses the school roll projections but couldn't define any specific policies.
When asked about long-term solutions, Ardern referred the Northern Advocate to her office who didn't provide a statement at edition time.
Meanwhile, Kamo High School principal Natasha Hemara hopes the $7m from the government will kick-start a redevelopment that has been raring to go since 2015, when the school was first promised $14m.
Hemara, who was appointed principal last year, said the school had been in consultation with the Ministry of Education for a while but couldn't explain why nothing has happened in the past six years.
"The $7m is in addition to the $14m that was announced in 2015," Hemara said.
The extra money was to cover the difference in predicted building costs from 2015 to today.
In the meantime, the school had to spend money out of its own pocket to keep its outdated buildings operational.
"We had to fix windows that were falling out because they were rotten."
Once completed, the redevelopment will replace two teaching blocks with one two-storey teaching block providing 22 classrooms which would be amazing for the school, Hemara said.
At the end of the programme, Kamo High School will have a capacity for 1000 students.