The Government has signalled a start to rebuilding the economy after the Covid-19 lockdown with an update on school projects, including new lighting and insulation for small and remote schools.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said classrooms at almost 600 small or remote state schools will be tested to assess lighting quality, noise levels and temperature.
"All schools that need improvements such as LED lights, acoustic panelling and ceiling insulation will receive them, with work starting later this year," he said.
"Small or remote schools face higher costs to deliver these kinds of improvements due to their size or location. Eighty-four state-integrated schools will be able to opt in."
The move is a gesture intended to signal that the Government will use state projects to boost spending as the country emerges from the lockdown.
It follows a $400 million package announced before Christmas which gave every state school built before 2015 a grant of $693 per student for property upgrades, with a minimum of $50,000 and a maximum of $400,000 per school.
Hipkins said upgrade projects at only 149 of the country's 2500 schools, worth $23.7 million, have been approved so far.
"Applications from schools slowed during the level 4 lockdown but the Ministry [of Education] expects applications to ramp up and building and maintenance work at schools will resume as we move down alert levels," he said.
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"The Government went hard and early on our package to support businesses, and we're now bringing forward infrastructure projects to reboot the economy.
"This upgrade package is part of a pipeline of investments to improve our schools and it will create and support jobs for local tradespeople and businesses.
"The Ministry of Education and schools will engage local builders, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, technicians and landscapers, who will in turn need to buy products and supplies from local stores."
A member of the Rural Educators Reference Group, Brunswick School principal Jane Corcoran near Whanganui, said small rural schools had been pushing for recognition of the high costs of getting tradespeople out to do repairs in isolated places, such as the new lighting and heating upgrades.
"This is very exciting news and will be well received by the rural education group, which has been highlighting the inequities in rural education for many years," she said.
The head of one of the most remote schools in the country Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kawakawa mai Tawhiti in Hicks Bay, Campbell Dewes, said his school did not need better lighting or insulation but he would welcome the ministry if it came to check.
"In my opinion we are sorted, but if other schools are in dank and dark conditions then there is a need for them to be repaired and brought up to speed," he said.
"They always have to talk to the schools as to the needs of the community and whānau of that school. That should be the first entry point.
"They are not coming in saying, 'We're going to fix up your lights.' The school might have other priorities.
"If the ministry comes in bearing gifts, I say, 'Instead of doing that, we could be looking at something else which would enhance the learning that we are doing."
Meanwhile, Hipkins also announced that $2.5m from the Sustainability Contestable Fund has been allocated to projects to reduce carbon emissions at 53 schools.
"Nearly half of the approved applications were for solar panels. Other innovations included rainwater collection, water conservation initiatives and different ways to compost and recycle," he said.
"A stand out for me was Glenholme School in Rotorua, which is replacing its gas boiler with a geothermal heating system that will heat the school, its water supply, and the swimming pool."
He said other school building projects about to start again after the lockdown include:
• Eight new teaching spaces, plus a new administration block and library at Parua Bay School in Northland.
• A new 10-classroom block at Beachlands School in South Auckland.
• Six new roll growth classrooms each at Clendon Park School and Rowandale School in Manurewa.
• Redevelopments of Ngāruawāhia High School, Hagley College in Christchurch and Maniototo Area School in Ranfurly.
• Major redevelopment to address weathertightness and other building issues at Flaxmere College in Hastings.
• The rebuild of Banks Avenue School in Christchurch.
• Replacing fire-damaged buildings at Westland High School.