Tauranga and the Western Bay continue to grow in popularity as desirable places to live, attracting young families with school-aged children. As areas such as Pāpāmoa and The Lakes boom, schools across the city are almost bursting at the seams. In the past five years, the number of new children entering the district's schools have increased by thousands. Education reporter Caroline Fleming spoke to some local principals to find out how this is affecting the Bay's schools.
More than 700 new students a year have been filling up Tauranga schools, leaving some classrooms bursting at the seams.
The number of students entering Tauranga and Western Bay schools has increased by almost 3500 since 2014, according to figures from the Ministry of Education.
This means more than 700 new students have been enrolling in Bay schools each year since 2014 with a total of 32,321 students on Tauranga and Western Bay rolls in 2018.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the ministry continued to invest in upgrading and expanding the school network and it was planning for growth demands.
The city's newest school, Taumata School, has been open for six months and has already exceeded the number of pupils it was expected to have in three years' time.
It had capacity for 400 students, with the potential for a further 250 student spaces in the future.
Principal Genavier (Gen) Fuller said the school had expected to open with 80 to 100 pupils, however, by the time they opened the doors, the roll was sitting at 150.
Six months in, the school has a roll of 210 pupils - and this is likely to increase to 260 children by the end of the year.
That was 80 more than the 180 students Ministry of Education predicted the school would have in 2021, Fuller said.
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Fuller said this exceptional and unexpected roll growth came as one of the biggest challenges as the principal of a new school.
She said the Ministry was accommodating when it came to requesting to employ more teachers and adjust their projected roll for funding.
However, as these changes were coming into effect, she said her staff were "stretched" and her deputy principal was teaching full-time to handle the roll growth.
The school was expecting to see further growth as it opened enrolments for Year 7s next year and Year 8s the following year.
She said she and her staff were working hard to "stay true to their vision" while "scaling up so rapidly in terms of numbers".
Te Puke Primary School principal Shane Cunliffe said in the seven years he had been there, the school roll had doubled and had been forced to introduce zoning.
Students had been taught in the school hall for four years and their staff room was being used as a classroom four days a week.
Cunliffe said the school had been awarded four roll growth classroom spaces from the Ministry, however, one of them that had been signed off in 2016 was not planned to be put in until next year.
He said the school was already in a position where it needed more.
Immigration a key driver for roll growth at the school and Cunliffe said nearly a quarter of its students did not speak English as a first language.
Te Puke had not been identified as a catchment of significant population growth by the ministry, which Cunliffe said was "frustrating".
The Ministry's Katrina Casey said the Tauranga area had three of the 39 high growth catchments identified in the new National Education Growth Plan - Tauranga, Ōtūmoetai and Papamoa.
The growth plan aimed to identify where new schools needed to be built or where additional classrooms were needed at current schools.
Casey said areas that were not identified would be provided with roll growth classrooms to address the increased demand.
Spaces such as libraries and halls were sometimes used to temporarily accommodate students during building projects and periods of high roll numbers.
The project scope for the new space at Te Puke Primary School had been extended due to issues around the classroom configuration, Casey said.
She said the ministry used a range of the best information available to determine areas of high population growth and worked with schools and others to consider the effects it could have on school rolls.
Western Bay of Plenty Principals Association president Matt Skilton said a high percentage of schools in the Western Bay were on their way to reaching capacity.
Skilton said it was crucial for schools to continue working closely with the Ministry and "front-loading issues before they can have a negative effect on schools".
Matua School principal Craig Wallis said the school had previously been operating classrooms out of the school hall, as its roll continued to grow.
The school was granted three additional learning spaces from the Ministry in 2018, but these were already "fully-utilised" and further growth would create challenges again.
Ministry of Education head of education infrastructure service Kim Shannon said expansion projects were planned for Papamoa College, Golden Sands School, Omokoroa Point School, Tauranga Boys' College and Maungatapu Primary School.
Shannon said these would deliver more than 120 teaching spaces that were currently in the design or construction stage.
The ministry had also put in seven roll growth teaching spaces in Tauranga schools in the last six months.