Community, Education

Students feel the squeeze

Whitney Street School principal Cheryl Wadworth with students, from left, Rylan Nicholson, Alex Wood, Alia-Rose Mackel and Celia Spencer.

Students at a Blenheim school have been feeling the squeeze as overloaded classrooms struggled to cope with demand.

Staff and pupils at Whitney Street School in Blenheim have faced a three year wait for the Ministry of Education to act.

Now education bosses have pledged funds for two new classrooms in the space-stricken school.

Students will no longer have to use the school’s library as a classroom, says Whitney Street School principal Cheryl Wadworth.

“We’ve had to wait and be innovative with the space we have,” she says.

A new building housing two new classrooms is hoped to be completed by the end of the year.

Zoned at the end of 2016, the Eltham Road school caters for pupils living in central Blenheim up to the new Omaka subdivision in the south.

It’s last ERO report in 2017 noted the school was undergoing “significant roll growth.”

But after zoning the 67-year-old school, the Ministry of Education realised there were not enough classrooms to cope.

Cheryl says she doesn’t expect the 366-pupil school roll to increase much more.

“We anticipate we should not be getting any bigger,” she says.

“We want to maintain current numbers.”

Ministry of Education deputy sector enablement and support Katrina Casey says the ministry will monitor roll trends and may consider an enrolment scheme review.

Using other school spaces as classrooms is only ever meant to be a temporary fix.

“Spaces such as libraries, halls and multi-purpose rooms are sometimes used to temporarily accommodate students during building projects, periods of high roll numbers or to allow for flexible teaching arrangements.

“As communities change, so too do the schooling needs of their children and young people,” Katrina says.

“Our job is to manage school infrastructure by planning for growth and population shifts both in the short–term and much further out as well.

“To do this, we consider population projections, local council information enrolment data and how well schools are utilised.

“We regularly monitor the capacity and projected growth of the school network,” she says.

Two additional classrooms were built at the school in 2017 but rezoning put the space under pressure.

“The ministry looks at the roll numbers and prioritise from there” Cheryl says.

“Now, we’re at capacity.”

“We’ll be extremely happy to have the new learning environments.”

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