Introduction

The Board held its third meeting of the year on 24 May.

As we are nearly halfway through the year, the Board would like to provide you with a little bit more visibility of how things are going and where we headed over the coming months. As you will have seen with the school newsletter, we’ve just completed year 5 camp with huge success and no COVID cases at the camp so a big thanks to all those involved.

Kindo and school donations

As you are aware we use KINDO the online payment platform specifically designed for schools, for parents to pay and manage their fees, donations and other school contributions.  If you are having issues with paying donations, please reach out to Gabs Ireland for assistance.  Your kind contributions are key to ensuring we can continue to provide the high level of teaching to the children.

Finance

For those that are unfamiliar with the education system, the Ministry of Education provides staffing funding for classroom teachers and school leadership.  This means that the school is funded for 26.11 of our 29.5 teachers.  The balance of the staffing costs of $223K are paid for by the Board from school funds, primarily from school donations, and added to by international student fees and fundraising. Teacher Aides are not paid for by the ministry except where there is an exceptional need. The annual cost for our Teacher Aide team in 2021 was $164k.  As a public school we are here to teach all our students and our specialist teachers and teacher aide team perform a valuable role in working with our teachers to ensure the needs of all students are met. They provide a range of specialist and support roles including specific support programmes, GATE programmes, in class support, teacher support and release and are of benefit to all students within our school.

Over the last 2 years, COVID has continued to impact on costs and disrupt many of the school’s revenue streams, including

  1. International student revenues have decreased due to COVID. These funds are used to help pay for the specialist teachers that we employ in music, physical education and technology. Specialist teachers in a primary school setting are rare and VAS is privileged to have 3 specialist teachers who work with all students and are a vital part of what makes your children’s school week special.
  2. Site rentals. Revenue from the hire of our facilities has decreased over recent years due to COVID and the fundraising income able to be contributed from the Friends has also fallen due to COVID. As you are aware, the school is getting older and while we have been in discussions with the Ministry of Education for a while, this will not be a quick fix. Recent bad weather has exacerbated the situation, denying use of some classes. This means we are unable to rent out as much of the school for afterhours activities as we used to, also impacting our revenues.  Fortunately, we are able to offer a range of extra-curricular activities now and with time we expect to see these providers rebuild their customer base.

Fortunately, the school has reserves that have been build up to carry us through this period.  We will shortly be embarking on the start of a long-term facilities and building programme (see Property).

Any contribution towards meeting these costs and lost revenues would be very much appreciated and can be made through Kindo.

Health & safety

We continue to have a strong focus on actively managing health & safety risks in the school.  We are in the process of installing a new H&S system designed to support compliance with legal obligations.  We undertake H&S and playground audits to help us identify and manage / remediate areas of risk.  Some outcomes that you may notice include signage, tree trimming / removal, new handrails etc.  In the area of wellbeing we offer counselling to staff through EAP, and students are delivered the Pause Breathe Smile mind health programme.

Property

We currently have 5 streams of work underway at VAS in regards to property. Some of this work is funded directly by the MoE through operational grants, some through capital grants, some through board funds and some through MoE special project funding.

The workstreams we are currently overseeing include;

  1. General Maintenance,
  2. School Investment Package (SIP),
  3. Accelerated Modernisation Scheme (AMS),
  4. Storm Damage Repair,
  5. Weather Tightness Review works.

General Maintenance:

Early in 2021 the school developed a cyclic maintenance plan to ensure that some long needed maintenance was addressed and the school site maintained. These items are undertaken each term break. This has included a full arborist review of the trees on site. We are blessed with an abundance of trees on site that also come with a few issues. Tree branches overhanging roofs, leaves filling up gutters and ageing trees having limbs break off.

The arborist has recommended an ongoing maintenance programme for the trees. The first part of this has involved removing some branches from trees deemed unsafe, close to buildings and the removal of the large tree between the netball courts and the hall. This tree was deemed in poor health and in the way of future works planned.

The drainage pipes around the site have been inspected and some clearing of pipes undertaken (both storm water and sewer) including stormwater cesspits. Our gutters and cesspits are regularly cleared to ensure tree debris does not cause blockages.

We have also undertaken geotechnical and structural investigation works across all buildings to allow us to understand the current state of all buildings on site for discussions with MoE.

We have been accepted into a pilot program for the MoE looking at a more in-depth Asset Management Register. This has resulted in MoE carrying out a full review of the grounds and buildings on site to better inform future decisions around property maintenance and programming of works. This report will help inform future build plans on our site.

School Investment Package (SIP)

SIP – What it is: A capital injection accelerating upgrade works at schools that would otherwise be deferred due to a lack of available funds

Under the SIP grants provided by the MoE we have been working out how best to use the investment provided MoE. We have received a grant of $365,904 This funding is secured but currently on hold awaiting approval from MoE for us to start works in conjunction with some other reviews we are undertaking with them.

The Board has decided to use these funds to upgrade the space around the Netball Courts. This will involve resurfacing the courts and drainage upgrades (including the long stormwater grates). We are also considering increasing the space around the corner of the Admin building by pushing the retaining wall back to allow more access for vehicles at this current pinch point. In addition to the resurfacing of the courts we are proposing to cover the courts with a waterproof acoustic lined fabric structure. This will provide the school with shade in summer and an all-weather space in winter. We believe this will be a game changer for the school to enable the kids to be have more outdoor learning areas whilst protecting them from the elements

As part of these works we will be relocating the playground at the end of the courts. The final position of the playground has not been decided yet as we are awaiting the outcome of further discussions with MoE on other matters. This space will also be covered and is to be future proofed for an outdoor stage / bleachers. This will enable the school to hold larger events on site in the future bringing the wider community together more often.

Some of these costs are to be covered by the SIP grant, some by existing Board Funds and some of the works will require future fundraising or donations. Additional items we will be seeking donations / fundraising towards in the future will include things such as the stage, lighting under the canopy, an external sound system (to support larger outdoor events on the stage for instance) and various other add-ons we could do to make this space even better in the future.

The plans and pricing are being progressed at the moment and we hope to report with more detail on this in the coming months including more detailed plans and pictures. If you would like to consider donating further towards any of these works we would encourage you to get in touch as we would love to do as much as we can.

As you can imagine lifting the entire existing netball court surfaces, resealing them and erecting a shade structure could be quite disruptive to the school. We are working with the consultant team and the suppliers to undertake these works over the summer break at the end of the year when the school is shutdown to isolate as much of the work from an operational school as we can and make use of hopefully dry summer months.

Accelerated Modernisation Scheme (AMS)

With the funding the school has received through the AMS grant the Board have had plans drawn up to modernize Rooms 1 to 6 in Block 1. This will include new carpet, breakout spaces, doors between some classrooms for greater collaboration, new wet areas, upgraded wall finishes and ICT wall units. This will improve the heat, light, acoustics and ventilation in these rooms.

The plans are progressing to design and tender documentation and we are awaiting the outcome of the storm damage repair work and MoE procurement processes to enable us to confirm a start date for these works.

Storm Damage Repair

As part of the intense rainfall earlier in the year the school sustained some substantial flood damage in Rooms 15, 16, the Atrium library and other associated rooms. The works for repair have been scoped by MoE’s insurance team and we are awaiting a commencement date for these works to be completed. We anticipate these works will be done ready for term 3.

The canopy above the junior area has been assessed and repairs and maintenance on this have been approved and booked in for later in the term. Unfortunately, like most building projects, supply chains and workforce limitations are causing some delays in this repair.

Weather Tightness Review

As a consequence of the storm damage the MoE have agreed to carry out a weather tightness review of part of the school. The first stage of this process is to undertake further investigations into the school’s buildings (focusing on Rooms 16 – 22 and surrounding areas) to ascertain if there are any further areas that require repair or upgrade as a result of weather tightness issues. This work is led by the MoE Property Team and we are awaiting the appointment of an architect to allow the scoping works to proceed. This will provide us with further understanding of any works required. Once we have more information from MoE we will let everyone know the outcomes. MoE have advised any work will need to take into consideration impact on teaching spaces and timing during the year. We expect the process to take most of this year in any planning and design phases if construction works are required.

Any contribution towards learning spaces would be very much appreciated and can be made through Kindo.

School Board elections – reminder

The three-yearly elections for our Board of Trustees will take place in September.  There will be more communication around the election process closer to the time.  We encourage any parents or caregivers who are interested in potentially joining the board to do a bit of research.  There is a good online resource at https://www.trustee-election.co.nz, and we are also attaching a brief document to this newsletter which outlines the functions of the board, together with the role of the Principal and school management team and the Friends of VAS.

We would also encourage any interested people to get in touch with an existing member to discuss this further (our contact details are on the school website), or indeed to come along as an observer to any of the upcoming scheduled meetings.

Board contact details

You can find the email contact details for Board of Trustee members at the following link; http://victoriaave.com/bot