Despite Fairfield School’s new play area consisting largely of asphalt and having no playground equipment, pupils “flocked” to it on the first day back at school this week.
Principal Greg Lees said there was very little space in the area on Monday.
“The kids think it’s fantastic.
“They just flocked to it because it has been a cordoned-off building site for the last 18 months.
“You could see the kids were excited, happy and very curious to be in an area they haven’t been allowed to go in.”
He said the area was officially opened on Monday, but was supposed to be completed soon after the school’s new modern learning environment block was completed in 2017.
The delay was caused when diggers started preparing the ground for paving, and discovered it was contaminated with asbestos.
“The asbestos didn’t come from the four prefabricated classrooms that used to be situated there.
“It came from a building that pre-dated them. It was demolished and just disposed of in a pit.”
He said it had to be dug out and carted away, causing the project to overrun by about 18 months and cost about $250,000.
Despite the hiccup, it was well worth it, he said.
“Previously, we didn’t have enough space.
“All we had was one basketball court and the school roll is now over 450 students.
“On wet lunchtimes, we didn’t have spaces for the children to go. It made things challenging.
“We’ve been very fortunate so far this winter because our fields have been dry enough for the kids to play on without getting muddy.”
Mr Lees said as well as providing a mud-free zone for pupils to play ball sports and run around in, the new area doubled as a space for outdoor assemblies and school prizegivings, and also had a stage for outdoor concerts.
He said the board was now considering putting shade cloth over the area to give it even more multi-purpose potential.
“It’s an area of continued development.”
The development was the brainchild of former Fairfield School principal Andy Larson. In a bid to pay tribute to Mr Larson’s work during the official playground opening, the board of trustees renamed the new modern learning block, the “Larson Block – Akoranga”.