MP Kim O’Keeffe has spoken in Parliament and called for the Minister of Education, The Hon. Natalie Hutchins, to fully fund Stage 1, and commit to Stage 2 funding, of the development and relocation of Verney Road School.
Ms. O’Keeffe said that the $25 million funded for Stage 1 of the development and relocation of Verney Road School to the former Wanganui School site is not enough.
“The school has been told that building cost escalations, as well as $400,000 required to clear some of the site, has left them short.
“They have also been informed that they would need to reduce the number of classrooms from the Stage 1 design. This would mean that not all of the Primary School students would be able to transition at the same time, in late 2024, when Stage 1 is expected to be complete. The school would find this impossible to navigate with staffing and the needs of their students and their families.”
Ms. O’Keeffe stated that Stage 1 of the development would take up approximately half of the decommissioned site and would include the early works for Stage 2, which would accommodate the senior students.
“How long will the school be made to wait for Stage 2 funding and to have the school fully functioning with all students located on the one site?” questioned O’Keeffe.
The current site at Verney Road was originally designed to accommodate 75 students. The school currently has an enrolment of 250 students, 116 staff, and continues to grow.
“The site is no longer fit for purpose” stated O’Keeffe. “With the reduction of outdoor space and jammed facilities, the school is trying to function on an overcrowded and overpopulated site.
“The school has also been informed that they would not receive the quantity of hoists that they require.
“This is a school with students that have special needs. It is appalling to think that the required equipment is also not being fully funded as they were promised.”
O’Keeffe also raised concerns regarding the current safety risks facing the school, students and families. “The school is sitting on a busy intersection and bus exchange which puts unnecessary pressure on accessing the school for parents, bus staff and outside providers. There is no street parking on the school’s side of the road, necessitating students to walk at least 50 metres to the traffic lights and into the school. This is untenable for many of the students who experience physical and sensory symptoms of their disabilities.
“This is a wonderful school who want to provide the very best of education, care and support for their students. The students, staff and families deserve better. They deserve a future plan, a safe and stable learning environment and fully functionable and appropriate facilities.”
O’Keeffe stated that the school needs to be fully funded to provide a facility that is safe and fit for purpose.
“The Minister for Education, Natalie Hutchins, needs to come on site and see first hand the issues that this school is facing. Minister Hutchins also needs to guarantee the funding for both stages of the development, as well as address all the redundant school sites that have been left sitting dormant.
“I have invited the Minister to join me at both the proposed and current sites so that she can see the desperate need for both stages to be fully funded.”