Schools across the Ashburton District have received an unexpected Christmas present worth almost $3 million.
The cash injection came as a total surprise to school principals when it was announced earlier this week by education minister Chris Hipkins.
It’s designed to pay for upgrade and infrastructure work that cash-strapped schools have been forced to put on the back-burner.
And it couldn’t come at a better time, the district’s principals say.
The district’s grant is part of a $400 million national pool that has been handed to virtually every school in the country.
Integrated schools, schools built through a public-private partnership and schools in leased accommodation are not eligible.
This sees St Joseph’s, Our Lady of the Snows and the Ashburton Christian School left off the list.
The district’s big winners are Ashburton College with a $400,000 windfall and Mount Hutt College, $305,000.
The grant is roll-based at around $700 per student, but has an upper cap of $400,000.
This means larger schools such as the college receive a much lower grant rate per student.
The least a school can receive is $50,000 and that sees the district’s two smallest schools, Chertsey and Fairton with rolls of 29 and 36 respectively receive a much higher rate per child.
Schools are yet to see the fine print around the grants, Ashburton Intermediate principal Brent Gray said, but in the minister’s announcement it was spelled out that the cash hand-out can be used in classroom upgrades, to replace roofing and guttering, to upgrade stormwater systems, install energy efficient heating and lighting and to resurface outdoor areas.
The Intermediate will receive $280,665 from the grant pool.
With a substantial rebuild of many of his school’s buildings planned to start next year, Gray said the extra money would allow the school to catch up deferred maintenance work on other school buildings and facilities.
“We’re still in the planning and design process of our new build and this is an absolutely welcome Christmas present.”
The $277,893 that Allenton School receives will be well spent said principal Bruce Tilby.
His school is working on a major rebuild plan that will see six new classrooms built in stage one, but the final scope of the plan is still being worked through to ensure it matches the significant roll growth anticipated in the future.
Allenton does not receive its next five year agreement funding (5YA) until September 2021 and there would be plenty of options for spending the new grant, Tilby said.
First to mind was a refurbishment of the school hall, but there would be a raft things in a school of the age of Allenton, such as electrical and drainage projects that would be on the list, he said.
“This means that for the first time in many, many years we’re in as good a position as we’ve ever been in, in terms of our property work.
“This is a very positive piece of news.”
Schools must use the on-off cash injection within two years.
By Sue Newman © The Ashburton Guardian - 6 December 2019