School's damp classrooms 'a health hazard'

An Auckland primary school says its classrooms are making students and teachers sick.

Five cold, damp rooms at Murrays Bay School were tagged for demolition five years ago, but they're still being used, and the school says it's been trying to convince the Ministry of Education they're a health hazard.

"It is just atrocious that we should have any of our kids in New Zealand in classes like this," principal Ken Ward told Newshub.

There's asbestos and the wrinkles of age showing through, while the toilet block is infested with mould. 

Mr Ward says patch-ups are expensive.

"We've had to clean the ceiling down and then put on anti-mould paint," he said.

The Ministry says maintenance is the school's responsibility and it has a duty of care to clean up mould immediately. It claims the school currently has $48,000 available for maintenance funding it can spend.

"Each year we provide schools with maintenance funding so that they can deal with maintenance-related property issues promptly without our involvement," head of education infrastructure Kim Shannon told Newshub.

"This funding is provided for exactly the types of issues Murray's Bay School is facing, including cleaning up mould and repainting."

The classrooms also come with the whiff of decay. They're colder older inside than out, the school says, and on a winter's morning, the windows weep.

Other rooms are also due for facelifts.

"There are classes where children can't sit on some parts of the floor because they're spongy," board chair Sarah Bridge told Newshub.

Around 150 children use this block and many say they've been really sick this year - more than just colds. That includes their teacher, who said she had a severe bout of bronchitis.

The Ministry initially said it was "disappointed" to learn the school had health concerns about the classes, because it's never raised those concerns with the Ministry.

But Murray's Bay provided details of five ministry managers it says it's spoken to about the problems over a number of years, along with a letter raising on-going health and safety issues which went to three ministers in august last year.

The Ministry has since clarified its statement, saying it had no recent complaints regarding unresolved health concerns - only about construction delays.

"Now that we are clear the school is worried about students' health, our contractors will be in there tomorrow to test the air in these classrooms," Ms Shannon said.

But a few weeks ago the Ministry gave the school seven dehumidifiers, as a "precaution".

It's been dismissed by the school as "just appalling".

The school says the Ministry has known for at least five years that the classrooms needed replacing, but the Ministry disputes that.

Several temporary replacement classes were delivered in February but the Ministry only got building consent for work to make them habitable in the past week.

"It's indescribable, it's like hitting your head against a wall," Mr Ward said.

The Ministry now says it will test air quality in the old classes this week while work on the prefabs is expected to start in the next fortnight.

But for the students, it will be a cold winter's wait.