Wakatipu High to hit roll cap early

Wakatipu High School. Photo: Mountain Scene
Wakatipu High School. Photo: Mountain Scene
The squeeze is on.

Wakatipu High School (WHS) will almost inevitably require temporary classrooms — again — to cope when it hits its readjusted capacity only two or three years from now.

Early this week, the school’s roll was 1459 — up 41% from just 1034 in 2020.

This means it is edging closer to its new top-end roll of 1625, which it is expecting to reach in 2027.

Originally, the school’s second-phase build, at its Remarkables Park campus, was to allow it to accommodate 1800 pupils.

However, that lower figure was agreed after discussions with the Ministry of Education last year.

Originally, WHS had also hoped the ministry would have selected a new school site by now, however still nothing has been confirmed.

And, even if it bought some land this year, it could be many years before the new school’s designed, let alone built.

Principal Oded Nathan said it took the ministry 10 years from when it chose the Remarkables Park site until the school extension opened last year.

"The ministry has been trying to obtain land for a second high school, which most people know about, but that seems to be slow going, and, really, we haven’t had an update on how that’s progressed in close to a year now."

Board chairman Adrian Januskiewicz said ministry was saying all the negotiations they were in the middle of, at the moment, were confidential and commercially sensitive, so they could not really talk very much.

All the school could do was "try and influence as strongly as we can the outcomes of whatever the longer-term solution is, but we’re being really driven by that process as opposed to being the drivers of that process".

He was confident the ministry was fully aware of Queenstown’s huge population growth curve; however, he was concerned it faced capital constraints, "so whatever dollars they do have go to the most screaming needs".

Given it had been likely for a while WHS would need temporary classrooms to continue running, he and Mr Nathan revealed they tried to convince the ministry to keep the 17 they used while phase two of the school build was going on.

Ironically, 11 only went as far as Queenstown Primary School, where they are being converted into permanent classrooms.

Mr Januskiewicz said the concern was the ministry tended to take last-minute action when short-term solutions were needed, "to put a finger in the dyke, if you like".

The Ministry of Education accepted it might need to reinstate temporary classrooms at Wakatipu High School, but did not not shed any light on what stage it is at regarding securing a new school site.

Nancy Bell, Hautū, Te Tai Runga (south) said the ministry worked closely with schools and kura to address capacity issues.

"In this case, a potential interim solution could involve temporary spaces located on to the Wakatipu High School (WHS) site.

"The immediate need at QPS, along with other schools in Central Otago, outweighed the longer-term potential requirement at WHS.

"We will be working with Wakatipu High and the community during 2024 to develop a plan for responding to future demand for secondary schooling.

It admitted it may need to provide temporary teaching spaces for WHS,

Mr Nathan said he would not be happy about converting the staffroom or library space into temporary classrooms, as happened elsewhere, and he did not want the temporary rooms to hog playing field space.

Despite these challenges, he was confident the school could continue providing students with a high-quality, all-round education.

Ironically, despite all the focus on a second high school, and whether it would be an adjunct of WHS or a stand-alone school, Mr Nathan also pointed to looming growth in Queenstown’s southern corridor.

"There’s the possibility even a third high school would be in the region at some point."