Taumata School’s principal, Gen Fuller, sits amidst students in the new classroom. Photo / Mead Norton
“A real sense of relief”.
That’s how Taumata School principal Gen Fuller felt when more than 200 students began studying in a newly built classroom block earlier this semester.
The school is
one of many in the Bay of Plenty-Waiariki region currently undergoing development projects led by the Department of Education with a total budget of US$200 million.
Department of Education data provided to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act shows construction for the new classroom block at the school was originally forecast for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021-22.
However, the end date had been pushed back to the first quarter of 2022/23.
It comes as the president of the Western Bay of Plenty Principals Association raised concerns about real estate project delivery.
The OIA also announces that the budget for all ministry-led projects under construction in the Bay of Plenty-Wiaariki Educational Region is approximately $200 million, with total expenditures of approximately $80 million.
Taumata School principal Gen Fuller said the new teaching block was internally complete as 211 older students moved into study rooms on the first day of the third term.
Fuller said there was a “real sense of relief” to have spaces that supported the “desired learning pedagogy” and room for students to expand.
She said the new teaching block has made a “huge difference” in student well-being.
“The fact that there is room to make learning a reality – especially for aspiring adolescents,” she said.
“We are better able to deepen the learning experience, particularly with regard to project-based learning – the spaces are purposefully designed to support active, chaotic, collaborative and authentic learning.”
Work on the exterior of the new buildings and landscaping continued on site and had yet to be approved.
It was expected that this exterior work would be completed by half-time.
She said “extraordinary growth” since the school opened in February 2019 meant some classes were located in the hall, library, administration and staff room areas.
Phase 1 of the school was built for 390 students, but in 2020 Phase 2 of the project was accelerated due to “rapid” growth in the area.
The school’s current tally is 595 and will grow to 619 by midterm, she said.
Fuller said that a master plan review and phase two construction negotiations had resulted in early design delays for phase two of the project.
Covid-19 has affected “site preparedness” and access to construction personnel, she said.
“As a school we have worked hard to mitigate the impact on teaching and learning – but the underlying impact is that students have been placed in spaces that are not intended for teaching and learning,” she said.
“[An] An additional effect was the possibility for our employees to come together in a common place since the staff room is used as a teaching and learning space,” she said.
Meanwhile, Western Bay of Plenty Principals Association President Suzanne Billington said the association was concerned about the delivery of real estate projects.
It has “proactively” attempted to resolve this issue through a working group meeting regularly with the Ministry of Education.
“This is still in the early stages but is viewed by the MOE as an experiment that will allow using current, credible and fundamental experiences with the MOE’s staff to help overcome these issues and build an improved and more transparent ownership System.”
Sam Fowler, head of the Department of Education, said it is working with the Heads’ Association to help the organization “provide effective service to the area’s schools”.
In the OIA, the ministry said changes in the completion date could be due to a “range of issues” including the impact of Covid-19 with supply shortages and contractor sourcing issues or “project-specific delivery complexities”.
In some cases, additional or modified phases changed the projected completion date.
It was unable to provide the budgets broken down by school because those amounts are inherently “commercially sensitive”.
It said the “initial projected completion date” was the completion date originally expected when construction began.
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