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Lakeview’s classroom squeeze

Hope for Lakeview School is diminishing after an almost year-long saga with the Ministry of Education [MoE] to resolve classroom shortages.

Nelson said although he’s had “exceptional support” from Education Minister Erica Stanford – “horrified with the situation” – he was “dumbfounded” and “frustrated” at MoE’s lack of support.

“It’s an absolutely untenable situation,” he said.

“They continually refuse to place the needs of vulnerable students above the needs of people who can work anywhere.”

Previously, MoE served a formal notice, which Lakeview agreed to in 2017, allowing two agencies to occupy three classrooms indefinitely.

At that time, the school roll was small and projected to drop to the low 300’s, but instead it increased to 525 students – 50 above capacity – last year, he said.

Nelson said since the three classrooms have been decommissioned, multiple resources had to be reshuffled and upcoming planned renovations meant children and teachers will use the library as a classroom, and if numbers increased, the school gym could shut.

“We’ll do everything we can to make sure that the families and the students don’t know,” he said.

“It’s putting massive pressure on our teachers.”

Nelson flagged with MoE that classroom space became an issue early last year, which only intensified in term three.

The “extremely limited” classroom space was detriment to the student’s learning, he said.

Nelson said staff were frustrated seeing empty classrooms occupied by the two agencies, Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour Service [RTLB] and Central Regional Health School.

MoE’s Hautū Te Tai Runga [South leader] Nancy Bell said they will continue to work with the RTLB and Lakeview “to consider other options that may enable the spaces to be returned to classrooms.”

“Due to the challenges of available alternative space, this will take time.

“Managing a school’s roll is the responsibility of both a school and the Ministry.

“This includes the management of enrolment schemes and any roll growth decisions.

“Our role is to make sure the schooling network is effectively managed.

“Any solution needs to be agreed to by both schools.

Previously, the Ministry said, “The school cannot reclaim the classroom space because the agreement is in perpetuity and as the legislative users the RTLB/Health School cannot be relocated.”

“The tenancy agreement can only be rescinded by another formal variation, which is an action only the ministry can take.”

Wairarapa electorate MP Mike Butterick said he has been working with Stanford and Principal Nelson toward solving the increased student numbers at Lakeview.

“We are all focused on the best outcome for our young students.

“The entire staff at Lakeview are doing an amazing job, and that is reflected in consistent role growth and need for good learning spaces.

“Managing the logistics of classroom renovations can be a challenge for any school. There are some options to minimise disruption at Lakeview that are being explored.

“I’m sure a resolution will be found soon,” he said.

Wairarapa-based Labour List MP Kieran McAnulty said the situation at Lakeview was “concerning”.

“When we’re seeing classrooms that were scheduled to start, being cancelled and schools like Lakeview screaming out for funding and not being able to get it, we are starting to see the impact of the spending cuts.”

“I’m concerned this is going to be the start of a trend, the government has asked every department to reduce spending by 6.5 per cent and 7.5 per cent,” he said.

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