School is back, and with the new year, Mangawhai Beach School (MBS) has a whole lot of exciting new developments going on from brand-new classrooms to adventurous lunch time activities.
No one travelling past the school along Insley Street in the last six months could miss the ongoing construction of the new block of classrooms. Parents and visitors have had to negotiate realigned car parks, shifting classrooms and hard-working contractors during the construction process, however MBS principal Aaron Kemp says parents have been great with the change, putting their children on buses or dropping them off by the Library Hall to walk, skate or scooter to help ease congestion and keep parking around the school to a minimum.
“Our parents have been amazing, we’re pretty lucky,” he says. “It’s been disruptive but not overly so, and I think with Covid people have got used to going with the flow and are used to change. I think the school has been better with communication too.”
Funded by the Ministry of Education (MoE), the expansion is necessary to accommodate the school’s expanding roll which has more than doubled from the 230 students when Kemp began at MBS ten years ago, to the current 530 (Kemp thinks it will be 600 by the end of the year), and will be ready in July for Year 3 & 4 students who have been attending classes in portacom set in the teacher’s car park.
Built around one of the school’s iconic trees, which will provide shade over a new grassy courtyard, the building’s inner layout includes ten fully-insulated, spacious classrooms with large sliders in-between two rooms, allowing for teachers to merge classes and ‘team-teach’.
“Research suggests that when two teachers work together, classes work really well,” Kemp says. “There are also ‘wet areas’ with decking for children to play in rainy weather, triple-glazed windows to reduce the traffic noise, offices and two blocks of unisex toilets. The contractors are just starting to do the insulation and get the walls on, they’re on track even with the Covid stops… I’m really impressed.”
With the removal of trees and gardens drastically changing the official front entrance to the school – required to accommodate a much-needed turning bay for the school buses that transport over 400 students every day to and from class – Kemp already has ideas on how to re-establish and beautify the entrance.
“It’s going to be paved so I’m hoping to get some big statement pots with maybe ferns, a waharoa (gateway) with two tear-shaped gardens, and we’ll be reinstating the stone surfboard feature and of course the school flag.”
With safety in mind, the social side of school, including the junior playground which was previously set on the building site, all now resides at the rear, with various colourful play equipment, a new soon-to-be-covered all-weather astroturf sport area and, thanks
to 2020’s fundraising efforts and additional funding from MoE, a new concrete bike-track which weaves around the field for scootering, biking or skateboarding.
Older students will also be able to venture out on the water from a small clearing on the school’s doorstep thanks to ‘local granddad’ Bob Glidden, who kindly gifted over 40 lifejackets, ‘which was amazing’.
“We have 30 kayaks arriving soon… and with the three teachers who are looking after the activity, the senior kids will be able to kayak out from the school when the tide’s up,” Kemp says. “We also want to build our fields and put rugby and soccer pitches in as well as an outdoor classroom… and the five syndicates will be planting some trees.”
Large new decks have also been built off the intermediate classes and lead out to the older student’s exclusive hang-out area, the school’s drainage has been upgraded, and once the portacoms are removed, the school’s caretaker will get a new shed.
MBS students are also now more mobile thanks to the generous sponsorship of a 12-seater school van by Mike Pero Mangawhai, aka Alan and Jill Corkin, which Kemp says will be very useful for general transport and education outside the classroom including kiwi conservation trips and Waka ama.
“We are so grateful for their support, having the vehicle will make trips a lot easier instead of having the cost of a bus,” he says. “We’ve got lots of development underway… the school will be fully fenced by MoE, and future ideas including a long-term project of a new swimming pool which we are starting to fundraise for with the Colour Fun Run on March 12, then we can start scoping it and come up with a design… it is all go this year!”
Mangawhai beach School principal Aaron Kemp and deputy Emma Grieve within the impressive new classrooms, necessary to house young students on the schools rapidly expanding roll. PHOTO/JULIA WADE
“It’s been disruptive but not overly so, and I think with Covid people have got used to going with the flow and are used to change.”
- Aaron Kemp