Fresh start makes Wellington icon stronger

Issue: Volume 96, Number 20

Posted: 13 November 2017
Reference #: 1H9g9Y

A transformation is underway at Wellington East Girls’ College, with the main teaching and technology block in the process of being replaced with modern buildings and facilities to support learning.

The redevelopment project at the inner city school in Mt Victoria is the largest ever undertaken at a Wellington school. The changes are more than just physical though. The school is taking the opportunity of a rebuild to rethink how it teaches the curriculum and the way students learn.

Developing a more innovative and student-centred collaborative approach to learning was part of the design brief to the architects, and new flexible spaces will support that. The new classrooms will include a mixture of specialist learning hubs.

“We didn’t just want new buildings without changing the way we operate. This is an opportunity to start afresh in a much broader sense, and we’re taking it,” says principal Sally Haughton.

The centrepiece of the new school will be a modern, three-storey classroom block that replaces five existing buildings and will be ready for term 1 of 2019.

A new cultural centre will allow connection and partnership amongst the school’s diverse cultural groups. This will increase collaboration with the whānau in strengthening school-based tikanga, and will be a resource for community-wide cultural learning.

There will be art studios and a music performance suite, new hospitality and media studies facilities, a green room and a sound studio. The café on the ground floor will provide real-life learning opportunities for students studying food and hospitality.

The rebuild, which began last year, is a massive project, and the scale is reflected in some extraordinary numbers: the work will create 6,000 square metres of new school floor area; 250,000 cubic metres of rock has had to be moved for the extensive enabling works, involving thousands of truck movements, and 5,000 tiles will be used to replace the school’s original brick building materials.

Up to 50 people are working on the site at any given time, including engineers, architects, town planners and IT experts.

Every element of the school’s everyday operations will be superior – connectivity, lighting, heating, ventilation, security and safety. But architectural beauty is not being cast aside.

The much-loved college is a collection of buildings that represent different architectural types from each of the decades since the 1920s.The main classroom block, with its striking classical facade that can be seen from the street outside the entrance, has long been a landmark, as well as a base for quality education, since it was built in 1924.

However, the former block’s facade is being preserved and strengthened with steel reinforcing. It will actually be three metres higher than it was before, and the tops of the parapets are being restored to their former glory.

The vestibule within the block is also being kept, and will be strengthened and renovated. In addition, some of the original character design features which were removed in earlier decades are being restored.

With earthquakes an issue in Wellington, the new main block will be strengthened to 100 per cent of the latest building standard for structural performance.

Operationally, the new school will use a state-of-the-art building management system with high levels of safety, comfort and security, with swipe cards replacing keys in some locations. Due to energy-efficient cladding, the cost of heating will be significantly lower.

Major change is underway for the teachers too. Sally says: “We have already begun teaching with collaboration and modern learning practices, changed the timetable structure, brought in BYOD, and have a strong focus on teacher development to give us new skills.

“So we’re already halfway to our goal. We are really excited about what lies ahead.”

The school currently has 1,050 students. The new facilities allow for a roll of 1,250, with a capacity for future growth of up to 1,400.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 13 November 2017

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