Westland High School students and staff were back in a school routine yesterday, although not from the actual school premises, which remain cordoned off following the February 8 fire.

Most of the 350 students and staff filled the theatre auditorium for their 9am assembly, before moving on to lessons in temporary locations spread around town including schools, churches and sporting venues.

Students were also given an update on the fire damage and plans for re-entry to the site, which may be delayed until later next week.

Principal Trevor Jones said while a number of buildings had suffered extensive damage the important thing was nobody was harmed.


"You are all here and all safe and well," Mr Jones told students.

The worst damage had been contained to the assembly hall, administration block and staffroom.

"We are going to lose all of these. They will be destroyed and taken away before you return back. There was also some damage to the A-wing classroom block, which could remain closed off in parts, including the girls' toilets. All main electrical cables and circuits had been damaged to the power supply and electricity was not expected to be back on until Friday.

Fire and intruder alarms also needed to be fixed and working, alongside the phone and internet connections before they returned to the school site.

The remains of the gutted hall, administration block and staff room section of Westland High School. Photo / Hokitika Guardian
The remains of the gutted hall, administration block and staff room section of Westland High School. Photo / Hokitika Guardian

He expected that could happen by next Monday - exactly two weeks after fire broke out in a section of roof where contractors were working.

However, Mr Jones said that could be delayed yet as removal of the rubble, containing asbestos, also needed to be completed and the area secured. The school also had to be inspected and approved by the Westland District Council.

"We hope to be in the following week, but it could take longer so be prepared."

While lessons had resumed yesterday after a week of no school, he acknowledged it would be adjustment for both students and staff.

"Things are going to be different ... and it might be stressful. We need everybody to help each other out. This is a real test for us ... but we're all in this together."

Deputy principal Chris Manuel, who has been managing health and safety at the Hampden Street site since the fire, spoke to the asbestos issue that the school is also facing.

Specialists had been working to minimise possible contamination to air following the fire, which had exposed some asbestos. The charred rubble had been continuously watered as a precaution. However, Mr Manual said tests taken from across the entire school site had come back clear. Routine testing would continue to monitor the asbestos risk when the buildings were demolished.

- Hokitika Guardian