Learning environments are fit for an A-lister

Rooms that are temperature-controlled, a cafe, a gym, aerobics room,  theatre,  dance and music studio — this is not a Hollywood mansion, this is the new Wakatipu High School.

Although it may seem to be as  social a setting as an A-lister’s home because of its  large open spaces, known as "modern learning environments". Media were invited to a walk-through of the new premises in Frankton yesterday. I was suddenly a pupil again when proud principal Steve Hall had us all stand in a circle and announce our names to the group. We all shuffled in through a side entrance wearing high-vis vests, hard hats and shoe covers.

It is still technically a building site, although, as the project manager from Hawkins Construction, Blair Grier, said, "We’re taking the wrapper off now."

The building has a whopping 10,000sq m of floor area over two levels. Mr Grier said the build alone cost more than $50million so I would expect it to be nothing short of spectacular — and it did not disappoint. Most of the landscaping is  yet to be done and there is still some  scaffolding up outside but, much to my surprise, the inside is practically functional.

Principal Steve Hall outside the new Wakatipu High School in Frankton. Photos: Mandy Cooper
Principal Steve Hall outside the new Wakatipu High School in Frankton. Photos: Mandy Cooper
The $2.5million worth of soft and hard furnishings are all pretty much ready to go. The builders are on target to hand the keys to Mr Hall on December 22, although the move from the existing Gorge Rd school starts on  January 3.  The gymnasium is  equipped for basketball, netball, volleyball and badminton and has a mini rock climbing wall with  an  aerobics and weight room nearby. The next stop was one of the "modern learning environments".

Project manager Blair Grier  points to the other side of the school above the building’s internal...
Project manager Blair Grier points to the other side of the school above the building’s internal outside area.

I silently assessed how several teachers would teach several different classes in one very long, spread-out room — a recipe for disaster, in my mind.  Mr Hall said  the  "learning commons" were  named after  rivers and mountains in the district. Most of their furniture was either on wheels or easily movable. He assured us teachers and pupils  were well prepared for the change, having had makeshift learning commons at their present school. 

The entire building is structured around the learning commons with small "breakout rooms" available if teachers or pupils  need to work on something different. The music, drama and dance suite is nothing short of beautiful, with three soundproof rooms available, a music studio and a dance studio.It looks down to the flash theatre.

The school’s executive officer, Andrea Wilton-Connell, told us it had 450 seats.

For practical minds, there is an automotive suite where a car can be driven inside and hoisted up to be worked on. The whole building is centred around an internal outside area covered in seats, benches, concrete and  AstroTurf and shade sails. 

The school was  built in a public-private partnership between the Ministry of Education and consortium Future Schools Partners. It will open with the capacity for 1200 pupils and the starting roll in term one is expected to be about 980.

Sign me up.

- Mandy Cooper

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