8 Jun 2015

Children stuck in mouldy classrooms

7:40 pm on 8 June 2015

Thousands of dollars a year are being spent on testing air at a South Auckland primary school so it knows if it needs to move children out of leaky, mouldy classrooms.

Decile 2 Clayton Park School, in Manurewa, badly needs new buildings, as current conditions have been making staff and students sick.

Principal Paul Wright said new buildings had been designed but he had not been able to get an answer from the Ministry of Education about when construction will start.

He said recent publicity about the slum-like conditions of the buildings at Northland College spurred him to speak out about his school after at least 10 years of unhealthy conditions.

"The position that we're in now is that the Ministry in Auckland has decided to employ an external contractor called Deloitte to prepare a business case to send down to Wellington to see if that is sufficient for the ministry in Wellington to commit the money, so the Ministry in Auckland can then get on with the project."

Mr Wright said mould in his school's classrooms was so bad children sometimes had to be moved out, and it was difficult to estimate how many children fell ill as a result of the damp classrooms.

"We get asthma, we get influenze, we get respiratory illness, we have had isolated cases of pneumonia."

Mr Wright said the ministry told him that biocontaminants could also be present in the homes of the children too, intimating that it was hard to say if it was the school buildings causing the illnesses.

A Ministry of Education spokesperson said it met representatives from Clayton Park School last week to discuss a significant programme of work planned for the school.

Six new relocatable classrooms would arrive in the next few weeks, which would provide students and staff with a healthy learning environment while a long-term investment plan for the school was developed, the spokesperson said.

It understood people wanted it to move quicker but any building project took time to plan and build, and it had to make sure everything was done right the first time.