Exclusive: School with major leaky issues cannot get start date for renovations from Ministry of Education.

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A primary school riddled with toxic mould is desperate to get rebuilt but despite years of waiting, children remain in damp classrooms with no date in sight. Clayton Park School in Manurewa has closed four classrooms because of mould, and says others are damp and leaky, with fungi growing in ceilings and walls. When the Herald visited the 500-student, decile 2 primary, principal Paul Wright pulled down a water-stained ceiling tile above a teacher's desk in the new entrant room to show thick black growth. "Our children get sick. Our staff get sick. We have an ongoing problem with respiratory illness," said Mr Wright. "We've been aware that the classrooms [have not been] safe for children to work in for a number of years now and so has the ministry." After Mr Wright wrote to the Herald - following a story about a similarly dilapidated school in Kaikohe - officials visited Clayton Park to reassure him it was still on the list for a rebuild. However, the Ministry of Education was unable to provide a start date for renovations. Mr Wright said the issues had been going on for at least 10 years. The ministry's head of infrastructure Kim Shannon said safety was always its first priority, and it acted immediately when schools told it there was a safety risk. "We understand Paul Wright's frustration and that people want us to move quicker but any building project, whether a $400,000 new home or multimillion-dollar school building, takes time to plan and build and we have to make sure everything is done right the first time," Mrs Shannon said.

"Our children get sick. Our staff get sick. We have an ongoing problem with respiratory illness."
Clayton Park School principal Paul Wright
The ministry has promised six relocatable classrooms at a cost of $1.3 million to arrive next month, which will be able to house some junior students. The rest of the students will continue to work in the old classrooms. Property reports about Clayton Park buildings, the first from 2011, note their faulty design, made worse by poorly implemented repairs in 2009. It says the school has "significant weathertightness issues". Asbestos was also rife. Unlike the school's admin block and gym - which were demolished in 2013 then replaced at a cost of $1.4 million - the 1979 buildings are too old to be considered under "leaky building" funding schemes. The school therefore has to wait for a ministry grant to rebuild. Its community does not have the ability to raise enough funds for new premises. In the meantime, it is able to partially maintain classrooms with support from the ministry - patching the roof or "drying out" areas when lab tests indicated high levels of mould or spores. However, a third of the school's $450,000 five-year maintenance fund had been taken for the rebuild, leaving it with less funding to be able to keep the school warm and dry. "In any case, the maintenance is only a short-term fix," Mr Wright said. "The next time it rains, another building leaks and the spore count becomes poisonous again." He said the school was "beyond repair" and asked for something to be done as soon as possible. Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye said she would be looking into the dates for redevelopment of the school. Ms Kaye said the Government had budgeted $650 million in maintaining, modernising and replacing school buildings and infrastructure for 2015.