The spirit of camaraderie, which often becomes apparent when people are faced with difficult situations, has certainly come to the fore
in the site-sharing situation that has been part of school life for many in Christchurch following the February 22 earthquake – and nowhere is that sense of comradeship more evident than among the staff and students of Burnside High School and Avonside Girls’ College.
A co-education school, and the largest school in the city with 2700 students, Burnside High has been sharing its campus with Avonside Girls’ High, where many of the buildings were so badly damaged in the earthquake that the whole school is currently off-limits.
Prior to the earthquake the Avonside roll was in excess of 1200, but it is currently just under 1100.
As with any school, a key aspect of the day-to-day operations is administration, which requires space and facilities for the staff, and these have been made readily available for Avonside staff at Burnside. Principal of Avonside Girls’ High, Sue Hume, explains:
“A meeting room just behind the reception area has been made available for us to use as our school office, with the reception desk itself being divided into two sides, one for us and one for Burnside, so visitors can find us easily. This has only been made possible because of the willingness of the Burnside admin staff to share their space. It’s all been running very smoothly and I believe it reflects the spirit of our city, and the good will of everyone concerned.”
Perhaps even more remarkable has been the willingness of the Burnside staff to move out of their well-appointed counselling suite to make it available for Avonside’s senior leadership team to use.
“The counselling people have moved in to pre-fab buildings on the school site and given our leadership team the use of their suite,” says Hume.
Some of the leadership team’s resources were retrieved from their Avonside building. “We managed to make two quick 10-minute forays into the school to get some of our files and records,” says Hume, “but we’ve also had to purchase some furniture and equipment in order to do our work.”
Getting the phone and computer system set up and running on the Burnside site was also a challenge, and Hume says solving the technological challenges was a key to getting the site-sharing arrangement functioning effectively.
Avonside Girls’ High staff and students are due to return to their own site at the start of the 2012 school year, but not back into all of their old buildings, as two key blocks are set for demolition.
“We will be moving into temporary, re-locatable buildings for two years, while a permanent solution for the school is worked out,” says Hume. “Relocatables as well as temporary new buildings will be specially designed and constructed for the school, but even going into the temporary buildings, it will be good to return to a normal school day, rather than having to deal with the contracted school days and extra travelling time that our girls and staff have been facing since the earthquake.”
Avonside Girls’ High opened in 1928, and as one of the city’s most well-respected schools, has provided an education for many thousands of Christchurch girls over the years, and while the new buildings to be constructed may not have the architectural style that has characterised the school, they are expected to provide the kind of facilities that better reflect the requirements of 21st-century secondary education.