Facing the future with pride

Issue: Volume 95, Number 19

Posted: 25 October 2016
Reference #: 1H9d5A

A new era for Kelston Deaf Education Centre has begun, with a complete rebuild of its Archibald Road campus. Education Gazette talks to principal David Foster about how the new buildings will serve the Deaf community.

A complete rebuild at Kelston Deaf Education Centre in Auckland has transformed the premises into a purpose-built yet flexible hub for deaf education in the North Island.

Kelston Deaf Education Centre provides specialist education services for deaf learners from Turangi to the Far North.

Over the past four years its Archibald Road campus has had a complete rebuild – a process that principal David Foster says has been exciting but “definitely shown the resilience of our staff”.

The new campus was operational from April of this year, and includes a bilingual (NZSL/English) preschool, a 23-bed residential hostel, Ruāumoko Marae and the Tū Kokiri post-secondary school programme – all of which are run from the site.

The remainder of the 1,000 students who access Kelston’s services attend partner schools in Auckland, or are enrolled in their local schools around the North Island.

Weaving together a future for Ruāumoko Marae

Around 40 per cent of Kelston students are Māori and Ruāumoko Marae has been on the school grounds since 1992 as a unique place serving Ngati Turi (Māori Deaf).

While the Ministry of Education funded the complete rebuild of the school, the marae was not included in the package.

“As we thought about the new site, we also had to contemplate the tūrangawaewae of Ngāti Turi (Māori Deaf) and so the board made the decision to allocate funding to rebuild the marae simultaneously,” says David.

“That involved saving up money for a couple of years, and we also worked to ensure we had a cost-effective solution that we were able to implement at the same time as the main rebuild.”

Under an independent contract, the new wharenui building was designed and constructed off-site then transported to Kelston at a certain point to fit with the timeline of the overall project.

The school is working with the Māori Deaf community to complete some special features of the marae.

These include woven tukutuku panels that have been completed with the help of an Auckland City Council cultural grant, and a tekoteko and pole carved by a deaf Māori carver in Whakatane.

“It’s all coming together though we’ve been somewhat hamstrung by a particularly wet winter,” laughs David.

A cobblestoned area is underway for the ātea at the front of the marae to ensure smooth access for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.

Purpose built with the community in sight

An important starting point for Kelston was that Deaf staff members were fully involved in designing the rebuild – even at the early point of selecting the architects.

“We had specific questions for the architects, such as how would they go about designing a building that would meet the cultural needs of our staff and students? Together we came up with a set of guidelines of things that were important,” says David.

The school drew guidance from Gallaudet University in Washington DC, which has published important documents about deaf space design and construction.

“Two of the things Gallaudet has looked at in particular include how Deaf communities change over time, and the importance of creating spaces that promote strong communication within the signing community,” he says.

“So it was important to us that our new buildings followed the same principles, which include ensuring clear lines of sight and good use of shade and colour."

“Close attention to acoustics and lighting were also important to us at the design stage."

“Within the building itself we’ve included a number of small touches that honour our history, including a space to show how the residential hostel used to look, as well as cabinets to display historic artefacts from the site.”

Holiday by the sea

One element of the rebuild involved preserving a colourful mural that had graced a wall in the reception area at Kelston since the 1960s.

Auckland artist John Holmwood died in 1987 and among his legacy are a number of artworks he gifted to schools, hospitals and orphanages.

He painted ‘Holiday by the sea’ directly onto the plaster surface of a wall at Kelston in 1964.

During the Kelston rebuild, the construction team from Hawkins Group Ltd cut the mural from the wall and padded the remaining area with plywood.

‘Holiday by the sea’ has now been re-situated in the staff room of Kelston where it can be enjoyed every day.

Tū Kōkiri transitions programme

The name of Kelston’s post-secondary school transitions programme is apt: Tū, from the Maori ‘to stand’, and kōkiri, being the kapa haka formation of the wedge driving forward.

“Tū Kōkiri means to stand and face the future with pride,” says David.

“I believe it captures an awful lot about who our students are and what we do here. It speaks of Deaf identity and a strong sense of our people – as they grow and excel in the areas in which they’re strong.”

The post-secondary school programme is generally designed as a two-year pathway, working towards employment or continuing education at tertiary level.

Kelston staff, including their teachers of the Deaf, educational associates and an educational interpreter, work together with specialists including a psychologist, occupational and
physiotherapist and speech language therapist.

Tū Kōkiri students undertake work experience, community engagement and tertiary taster courses, within an individualised programme that meets their needs and goals.

A sense of belonging to the wider Deaf community is an integral part of the Tū Kōkiri programme. David explains how this was recently highlighted when the programme had to find temporary premises during the rebuild process.

“When we discussed this with the staff and students, one of their ideas was to see if we could share some of the space where the Auckland Deaf Society (ADS) operate, as a temporary base for Tū Kōkiri."

“That meant our students were living, working and learning physically within the wider deaf community at the ADS buildings in Balmoral in Auckland for a year, and now we have a permanent arrangement where the programme operates for three days a week out of the ADS building, and two days a week from the new classrooms at Kelston."

“This has led to a strong sense of citizenship and belonging within the wider Deaf community for the students.”

When the students are away, their new classrooms are used for workshops, seminars and meetings.

“The space is used every day for different purposes,” says David.

“It demonstrates that our new buildings also fulfil a design principle we set out to achieve – that of flexibility as our needs change. I believe this is a design idea that is really helpful for all schools – creating a space to be occupied by a diverse community, rather than rooms that define a certain role or responsibility.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 2:32 pm, 25 October 2016

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