Mouldy, uninsulated and leaking. As last term drew to an end, children in some rooms at a Rotorua school were unable to write in their books as the air was so damp the pen wouldn't transfer to the paper. Pupils of the school have been in second-hand classrooms, described by the principal as "awful" and "inadequate", that were put there in the 60s. But thanks to a multimillion-dollar boost from the Ministry of Education, the school will soon be able to replace them with fit-for-purpose classrooms. Cira Olivier reports.
Nearly 60-year-old classrooms riddled with damp and mould have sparked multimillion-dollar construction plans by the Ministry of Education for a Rotorua primary school.
Lynmore Primary School had 18 prefab classrooms up until January this year, making up a small portion of the 601 relocatable classrooms in the Bay of Plenty.
These buildings were put on site as second-hand, roll-growth classrooms in 1962 with the intention of being temporary.
But 57 years later nine of those classrooms are still standing, damp, uninsulated and smelling of mould.
Principal Lorraine Taylor said she had been fighting for eight years for the buildings to be taken away.
"We get to a point where the air is so damp in [the prefabs] the children can't write in their books because the paper is so damp," she said.
Taylor said of the nine prefabs remaining at the school, two more would be removed by the end of the year and the rest would stay but needed to be insulated, have the mould removed and be waterproofed.
"They're absolutely not adequate for learning but it's all we've got and there's no way for them to be easily remedied at the moment," she said. "They're awful, but they're not as awful as the ones that have just gone."
The Ministry of Education confirmed nine prefabricated teaching spaces were refurbished and relocated from Lynmore Primary School to Papamoa College, saying it was to "provide quality temporary accommodation while we undertake an expansion at the college".
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Taylor said the school was fortunate something was being done but it had been a fight.
She said it was not anyone's fault currently and appreciated the work the ministry was doing to amend the problems and considered the school lucky.
There will be up to $5 million of redevelopment at the school and construction tenders are expected to be released between October and March next year through the Ministry of Education's Construction Directory.
The investment into the school is to upgrade the condition of the school's buildings to ensure students are learning in fit-for-purpose environments, starting next year.
The money will go towards a new teaching block with seven classes and the demolition of old buildings.
"These will be the first purpose-built classrooms on the site since 1956," Taylor said.
Pupils had been shuffled around the school with the removal of the prefabs to a refurbished staffroom and two classes would move to the cultural centre.
"It's been a bit tricky ... but it's better than being in a damp prefab," she said.
Rotorua Primary School will also have between $2.5m and $5m of construction in response to its roll growth.
Otonga Rd Primary School principal Linda Woon said the school spent its entire property maintenance grant (PMG) on upgrading the prefab buildings.
As the relocatable buildings came to the school at different times over the years, there were different building standards and quality.
Reinsulation, new heating, addressing lighting issues, new furnishings and removing asbestos were done to the prefabs.
There were two classes that still needed to be properly insulated.
Woon said all the work they had done on the buildings made them adequate and she would not want to get rid of them.
"Purpose-built buildings are obviously nicer but it's not practical and it's a case of being reasonable," she said.
"The fact that a prefab is relocatable is not the problem. It depends on the building materials that were used and the standard at the time it was built."
She said the modern relocatable buildings were a lot better than what was provided in the past.
The ministry's head of education infrastructure service, Kim Shannon, said the relocatables provided now were fit for purpose and schools were funded to carry out on-going works and maintenance.
"Relocatables are no different to any other teaching space in that they provide long-term accommodation solutions for schools and come in many styles," Shannon said.
Shannon said more than $900m was spent on school property in the 2018-19 financial year, the largest school property capital spending year on record.
"We take a very deliberate approach to prioritising and allocating funding to construction works where condition and/or roll growth needs are the greatest across the entire network," Shannon said.
The redevelopment of Lynmore is expected to start early next year, Shannon said, and the ministry was in the early planning stages for several other projects in Rotorua.
These details would be available at later dates.