Schools feel the squeeze
Primary schools in Masterton are resorting to using their libraries and meeting rooms as classrooms as rolls continue to rise.
In 2003 the Ministry of Education began the process of closing hundreds of schools across New Zealand, including four in Masterton, after predicting there would be 70,000 fewer pupils in primary schools by 2018.
The predictions were way off the mark. Nationally, the number increased by 503, from 456,736 in 2003 to 457,239 in 2016.
This has left schools such as Masterton Primary School (known as MPS) struggling to find space, with no quick solutions in sight.
Enrolment has increased year on year for the past eight years as MPS joins several local schools feeling the squeeze.
Principal Sue Walters said the ministry had told her there was no way the school would get a new classroom unless it was zoned, and that this process ‘‘would take some time to organise’’.
In the meantime, it has looked at turning the staffroom or library into classrooms, but has decided to combine two classes into one room.
‘‘The delay is frustrating con- sidering, when I was working in schools 30 years ago, you could phone the old Education Board and typically they would take action the next day, or at least within a week.’’
Other schools in Masterton have had to turn away new entrants or house them in temporary classrooms.
Fernridge School principal Janine Devenport said it was at capacity and was currently teaching some pupils in a meeting room off the library at certain times of the day.
‘‘We have had a lot of new residents move into our school zone, from all over New Zealand and even Australia. We had to close enrolments in February this year because we didn’t have the space for new entrants.’’
Solway Primary office manager Viv Nicol said Solway had had an increasing roll for years, and had built two new classrooms, but was still struggling to house pupils.
‘‘We are full up, and the new entrants classes are bulging. We are using the library as a class in the mornings.’’
Douglas Park School principal Dick Brown said his school had been becoming overwhelmed by enrolments before reinstating a zone in 2013.
‘‘If the Masterton population continues to grow like it has been, the ministry will need to take action.’’
Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said it recognised MPS was experiencing roll growth, and the school’s board had agreed in May to implement an enrolment scheme.
‘‘We are supporting the school through this process, which usually takes three school terms for it to be developed, consulted on and implemented.
‘‘Fernridge and Solway schools both have enrolment schemes, but also have a number of out-of-zone students. We work with both schools regularly, and neither of them have raised concerns with us.
‘‘Statistics New Zealand population projections for Masterton indicate the primary school-aged population is at a peak now, and will then [start] to reduce ...
‘‘We’re continually analysing the Masterton school network to make sure there’s enough capacity for the future.’’
Masterton Primary School principal Sue Walters said her school needs a new classroom to cope with a roll increase.