INJECTION: Ohope Beach School principal says funding for school infrastructure is long overdue. File photo

EASTERN Bay schools have welcomed as “long overdue” news they will each receive funding of between $50,000 and $400,000 to be spent on repairs and maintenance of their buildings.

The funding announced by the Ministry of Education on Sunday will be based on school rolls, with a minimum of $50,000 and the maximum capped at $400,000.

One Opotiki school, Te Kura o Torere, has only six students but will still receive $50,000 as almost every state school will receive a capital injection next year valued at $693 per student.

The Bay of Plenty will receive a $37 million-plus slice of the funding pie.

Whakatane Intermediate School, with a roll of 600, looks to be the biggest winner in Whakatane as it will receive the maximum amount, along with Whakatane High School, with a roll of 920 students and Trident High School, with a roll of 1033.

Whakatane Intermediate principal Michael Webster said they welcomed the chance to upgrade their facilities and enhance the school grounds, although they had not received official notice from the ministry regarding the amount nor where it should be spent.

“We are proud of our buildings and grounds, and the school has always had maintaining these facilities as a priority for the students of the school.”

Whakatane High School principal Carol Hughes said the money “provides us with a great opportunity take the school’s maintenance level to one where we are able to remain on top of things”.

The funding to schools countrywide will total $400 million and is the biggest capital injection for school maintenance in at least 25 years.

The funds can be spent on classroom upgrades, including making classrooms more flexible and modern, replacing roofing and guttering, upgrading storm water drainage systems, installing energy efficient heating and lighting and resurfacing outdoor courts and paved areas.

Integrated schools, schools built through a public-private partnership, or schools in leased accommodation are not eligible.

St Joseph’s Catholic School is among schools that won’t receive funding.

“Being an integrated school, we will not be receiving money from the government directly – this could come through the diocese at a later time, but I am not really sure,” said principal Jo Brady.

About 68 percent of schools have an average building age over 40 years old and 40 percent have an average building age that is over 50 years old.

Ohope Beach School is no exception and last year completed a $13.5 million new build after taking down second-hand prefabs that dated to the 1970s. The school also had weathertightness issues.

Principal Tony Horsfall said the funding was well overdue.

“Most schools have been grossly underfunded over the years, it has never kept pace with inflation, if anything successive governments have chosen to ignore it and it has got to a point now where they can’t ignore it because some schools are falling over.”

Mr Horsfall said it was, however, an issue that the funding was based on the school rather than the needs of the school.

“I don’t think they have a handle on what the needs are; it is too big, probably what they are doing is putting this as a base level and then saying to individual schools if there is extraordinary needs above this funding level talk to your property person and they may inject a bit more.”

Mr Horsfall said the funding of $183,000 based on a roll of 265 would be welcome at his school as there was more work to be done. “Especially in the old part,” he said.

He said with older buildings it was difficult ensuring they met building, fire and health and safety standards.

Mr Horsfall said the funding would go towards, for instance, replacing old electrical fittings in its bid to become more energy efficient and that alone would cost between $4000 and $5000.

“That is money that schools don’t have sitting in their back pockets so yes that money would be good to have.”

James St School principal Roz Dakin said the funding of $144,000 would be gobbled up by upgrades.

kathy.forsyth@thebeacon.co.nz