By Mick Jensen
The future is looking bright at Ashburton College with an investment of $50million announced for 64 new classrooms, a new library and new auditorium.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in Ashburton last week after a tour of school buildings and an informal chat with staff and students.
Her visit was kept secret and the funding was announced first to staff in the college’s staff room.
The Prime Minister said the college buildings were “left wanting” and were in poor condition.
There had been “a real need” for an upgrade at Ashburton College for a number of years.
“Your library looks likes an old Pizza Hut building,” she told college staff.
The Prime Minister had earlier tipped off English teacher Michael Clark, a former college pupil and head boy, about the amount being invested in the school and it was left to him to announce it to his colleagues.
The Prime Minister told teachers and support staff that that there were three things special about the New Zealand education system – the curriculum, the teachers and the school environment.
She said the school buildings were letting the school down, leaked, and were not fit for purpose any more.
The $50m investment would provide the school with the modern learning environment it deserved.
It would mean warm, dry and modern classrooms and would also allow for future roll growth.
The work would cause some disruption over the next couple of years, but would be worth it, she said.
The Prime Minister, Education Minister Chris Hipkins and local MPs Andrew Falloon and Jo Luxton took a tour of the school to check out the ageing classrooms and facilities for themselves.
They were told by students that the school could be really hot in summer, that there were buckets to collect rain in the leaking library and that whole school gatherings were only possible on the college chess board and were weather dependent.
Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said the redevelopment of the school buildings had been a long term project, but he was “rapt” that it was now all systems go.
The whole school, apart from the two gyms, would be rebuilt in a staged process.
Bare land would be used for some new buildings, while there would be demolition and rebuild on the current footprint.
He said 2019 was a year of planning, 2020 was focused on procurement and pricing, and in 2021 building work would start.
He expected new buildings to be up and in use by 2022.
Funding of $29m for new classrooms and upgrades at Ellesmere College was also announced during the Prime Minster’s visit to Ashburton.
Photos: top, Ashburton College principal Ross Preece takes a tour of the school grounds with Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and local MPs Andrew Falloon and Jo Luxton, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is all smiles with Jo Luxton and Ashburton College students Carl Cayanan, Jessica Timmo, William Wallis and Mollie Gibson.