Whakatāne school to continue classes in hall following fire

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Pupils at a Whakatāne school will have to wait three weeks before they can re-enter the grounds after a fire ripped through eight of its classrooms.

The aftermath of the fire.

The aftermath of the fire at Apanui School. Photo: Supplied / Apanui School

The fire also razed a nearly-complete administration block and bathrooms at Apanui School early on Saturday.

Apanui School board trustee Alexandra Pickles said a clean up was underway and the community was rallying around the school.

Students would continue their learning at the Whakatāne War Memorial Hall from Wednesday 10 February until they could return to school, Pickles said.

The school will be closed on Tuesday to allow teachers to make preparations.

While the community and school whānau was devastated, it was looking at the tragedy as an opportunity to build something exciting, she said.

“There’s a real sense of positivity, people coming together. The Whakatāne community, sadly, is too familiar with trying events as of late, but through that we have built resilience and that’s really shining through at the moment.”

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Pickles, whose son attends the school, said school work has been lost, as had the resources that teachers had been building up for years.

“But one of the school core values is resilience and that’s going to come to the fore.”

Water, power and fibre will need to be restored and the grounds cleaned up before people can return.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing.

The A Block at Apanui School was well ablaze by the time fire crews arrived.

The A Block at Apanui School. Photo: Supplied / ApanuI School

In a statement, Apanui School said all learning equipment would be supplied at the hall, and the Lunches in Schools programme was still running.

“Our management team have been putting together a programme for the first couple of weeks with a range of exciting activities both at the War Memorial Hall and at other venues around town,” the statement said.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure our tamariki get the opportunities they deserve.

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“The upside is that this is an exciting opportunity to provide a wide range of learning for our children and something different.”

The school had received “so many wonderful offers” of help with the tidy up, but it was unable to use volunteers.

“The next stages are all managed externally, hence us all being moved off-site.

“Your way to help is to be really positive with your children, talk to them, answer their questions and be excited about the ‘New Apanui School’ at the War Memorial Hall.

“We will require parent help/supervision with some of the activities that we do. This will be shared in time.”

– with additional reporting by SunLive

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