For the first time in seven years, Cambridge Middle School has enough designated classrooms for all its students, says principal Daryl Gibbs.
A new block of four classrooms at the school accommodates four teachers and 120 learners.
“This is the first time in my time as principal at Cambridge we’ve actually had enough classrooms for every child to be in a designated classroom and not some other space we’ve had to squash them into,” Mr Gibbs said.
The school was bursting at the seams when he took over as principal in 2018.
“My very first year I started we enrolled over 60 families over the summer break and that’s just unheard of – that’s two classes worth of children between the last day of school and the first day of school – and most of them at that stage were shifting down from Auckland,” he said.
Lobbying the Ministry of Education for a fix has gobbled “a significant amount” of his time since.
“The first year or so was fighting for them to actually understand how serious our situation was,” he said. “We’d gone from 400 to 600 students in two years with no extra classrooms, and so it was becoming really quite critical that we got classrooms.”
The next year, in 2019, the school’s roll jumped by another hundred students and is now 720.
“So within four and a half years we’d gone from low 400s to low 700s. At that point, without an extra building, it was obviously starting to be quite an issue for us.”
Students were shoehorned into every available space, with classes squished into a foyer, a storage room and the library. Woodwork and metalwork lessons were scrapped to free up space for general classrooms.
However, with the opening of a block of four classrooms this term, there is finally a purpose-built classroom available for every student.
Lying beside Grey St, rooms 12-15 accommodate four teachers and 120 students and include two breakout spaces. They were blessed recently by matua Whare Heta.
“They can be single classrooms or they can be opened up to be pairs or the whole four can be opened up to be one big shared space, so they’re very flexible in how they can be used,” Mr Gibbs said.
Twelve-year-old Sofia Mackenzie was learning in the library for first two terms of this year, a long walk from the other three classrooms in her Manaia syndicate, which were clustered together in old prefabs in a far corner of the school.
“I really enjoyed being in the library…it was kind of nice being around books and it was quite big and spacious,” she said.
But her brand new classroom, neighboured by the other three Manaia classes, is better.
“I really like being able to collaborate with other teams because we do cross grouping for math and reading with Mr Heaton’s class and I really enjoy that because we’re able to talk to other teachers,” she said.
She also loves the breakout spaces, nicknamed the “fish bowls”.
While the school now had enough classrooms to accommodate the current roll, further growth is expected.
“We are in the process of designing four more classrooms to be built because we know that we’re going to grow again over the next 18 months, few years,” Mr Gibbs said.