Alumni gathering Ross Preece webAshburton College principal Ross Preece tells former students and teachers about plans to replace the school’s leaky library. Photo Linda ClarkeThe architect for Ashburton College’s $50 million rebuild will be announced soon, though building work on the new campus will not begin for another two years.

Board of Trustees chair Jeremy Savage said the footprint of the 76 new classrooms and administration block had not yet been decided but options included the existing netball courts, playing fields and former community pool site (now a gravel carpark).

Savage said the Ministry of Education would manage the project and the school would be able to have its say on the space functioned.

He also hoped local businesses would engage when it came to awarding contracts for the work, which is timetabled to begin after the Ashburton District Council’s new building is constructed.

“We can get a school we think will suit our community and the needs of our community in the future.”

Savage talked about the significant build to former students and staff at an Ashburton College Alumni event on Friday.

He said the school had changed a lot since their day and was now a multicultural reflection of New Zealand with a roll that included 14 per cent Pacific Island students, 14 per cent Maori and 14 per cent Filipino.

Alumni chair Peter Gluyas said the gathering marked 50 years since the laying of the foundation stone at the Walnut Avenue site, not to be confused with the 50th anniversary of the merging of Ashburton High School and Ashburton Technical School in 1965.

The two schools functioned over two sites until the college was built.

The concrete block design served it well at the time, but has been found to be too hard to remodel.

The current classroom and technology blocks, and the administration area, will all be demolished once the new school is complete.

Principal Ross Preece said the campus would be built to cater for 1350 students and flexible learning spaces for large groups and individual cells, as well as specialist rooms for subjects like hospitality and woodworking, where subjects used commercial machines they would find in the workplace.

He said the curriculum was changing to ensure students had the soft skills and disposition needed for the modern workplace, where they were more likely to have a succession of short-time employment contracts rather than be in the same job for 40 years.

He said computer labs would be a thing of the past as almost all students now brought their own digital devices.

“They don’t need to remember the periodic table, they can just ask Siri.”

The alumni group visited several classrooms and the school library, where staff had prepared for an expected overnight downpour with buckets positioned to collect water that dripped from the ceiling when it rained.

The event also included the opening of a time capsule, created by the class 3BT for an English project in 1996. Teacher at the time Denise O’Halloran did the honours, then invited four former students to read their work – students had been asked to write about themselves and what they thought would happen in the future.

The former students, Steve Carr, Jackie Hurst, Amy Clark and Laura Davidson, were a bit nervous reading their 14-year-old thoughts aloud, but did, with some minor editing to avoid embarrassment.

Steve, now an accountant, had predicted he might become a builder or a mechanic and own a Harley-Davidson motorbike.

Former teacher Lynne McDonald had a surprise of her own and presented a framed and embroidered Ashburton College crest (a raffle prize from the 25th jubilee) to alumni chair Peter Gluyas, to act as his badge of office.

By Linda Clarke © The Ashburton Guardian - 6 August 2019