Parts of Christchurch do feel somewhat otherworldly at present, so I thought I would take a moment to report on one part of CORE Education’s support for schools in that still somewhat beleaguered city
I am back working with the Ministry of Education over the next couple of weeks to assist with getting the ICT systems of damaged schools up and running, although, it is likely that the schools will need a large amount of ongoing assistance for a couple of months.
As you will be aware, there are many more schools badly affected by the February 22 quake (up to 30), compared with the September 4th event (only 2 local schools closed after that event).
What options available to schools without a school?
The Ministry of Education and local schools and their Boards of Trustees have been working hard to find space for schools that have been given the dreaded red sticker, and are therefore out-of-action in the short to medium-term.
Shared space option
The result is that many schools will be sharing space in the interim—it looks as though primary and intermediate schools will share space at the same time, and high schools will split their day around 50/50.
St. Mary’s Primary moving to another school hall
About 100 students from St Mary’s Primary are, therefore, moving into the hall of another unaffected school nearby—the hall will be divided into five partitioned zones that teachers and children will work in until the fate of their own school becomes clear. The school needs to have broadband, power, data, and a wireless network put into the hall…. “And, oh!” said the St Mary’s principal (with a hopeful smile on his face), “if you can get us ten desktop PCs, that would be greatly appreciated”.
The case of Heaton Intermediate
Heaton Intermediate (500 students) was the next school to visit. Their three-year-old, stylish, angular, steel and glass admin block and staff room doesn’t look too bad from the driveway, but once inside, you can see how walls have come away from floors, things have a generally Pisa-Tower-ish look to them, and the staff room has an unappealing layer of detritus that came up through the floor boards and oozed everywhere within 10 minutes of the quake. Broken glass is still strewn across the floor from when the dishwasher door flew open and disgorged its contents at the peak of the shaking.
Heaton’s Year 7s are off to Casebrook Intermediate, and their Year 8s to Breens Intermediate—each of those host schools are working hard to find space (old rooms, garages, spare prefabs, large cardboard boxes) and facilities for 250 students and their teachers, who are about to turn up later this week.
Fortunately, Heaton managed to get their servers out. Plus, they had a backup (yay!) and a proper offsite backup also (double yay!!), so they are looking good…. Now we just need to get the infrastructure and associated hardware going, so we can use it in the host schools. Because the Heaton teachers have been using eTap (a hosted SMS) and KnowledgeNet (hosted LMS), they will be able to continue to use those products in their new location. Cloud computing is looking increasingly attractive to those schools with email servers buried under a steel beam or in a location with no power. :-)
…and secondary schools: Avonside Girls High moving to Burnside
As an example on the secondary front, Avonside Girls High School is moving to the Burnside High School site—the high schools are going to run consecutively rather than simultaneously—so it looks as though Burnside High School will operate between 8am to 1pm, then Avonside Girls High School moves in from 1.30pm to 5pm. Avonside Girls High School has managed to get a lot of their PCs out of their outlying buildings, but about 30 TELA laptops remain trapped and alone in the badly damaged admin block (generally with a multitude of teacher resources on each one). As you can imagine, this is one more stressor for teachers who may also have power or water off at home, or be dealing with injured family members.
I was able to acquire laptops direct from Equico for those teachers, so they are being couriered down to Burnside High School over the weekend, re-imaged Monday–Tuesday by IT staff to make them ready for the Avonside Girls High teachers. What we can’t do is replace the resources on the laptops (if they aren’t backed up), so we will see how that unfolds over the next week or so.
Inside the CBD: Unlimited and Discovery 1
Last example is Unlimited and Discovery1—the two schools in the heart of the CBD. Six hundred and fifty staff and students in a modern, vertical, concrete and glass structure—state-of-the-art ICT facilities, fast fibre connection, and with the city as their learning-environment. They are in the Red Zone, so is off-limits— all teacher laptops, school computers and servers (and backups) inside…a sub-optimal scenario to say the least.
Those two schools are being relocated for the next month or two to a rural, horizontal, one-story school on the outskirts of the city—an interesting cultural change for students, who may not have seen a cow for some time, or felt grass between their toes, and, who may now have to travel 3 kilometres for a double trim latte—but as many have said “needs must”—and (hopefully) a fantastic learning opportunity for all concerned.
Ministry of Education logistical challenge
There’s a big team of Ministry of Education people there also, but spare a particular thought for Bernie Scannell (the Queen of School Transport), who has been living out of a suitcase in Christchurch while trying to organise the dozens of buses that will be required to pick up 6-7000 school kids twice a day and deliver them to and from their new schools, across a pretty broken transport network.
…and help from around the country
In the midst of all that is happening in the wider Christchurch context, I would really like to note the rallying of teachers and schools together to support one-another. In all my conversations with principals and teachers last week, there was a very supportive atmosphere. This has been aided and abetted by the sterling work of numerous CORE staff around the country, who are contributing in a variety of ways —the rapid development last week, of the school resource wiki being an excellent example. People in the schools are very appreciative (and aware of) the work occurring nationwide to assist them.
I hope this has provided one small set of examples concerning the challenges schools are facing in the city. Morale is generally pretty high, but people are very realistic about the challenges ahead. How it will all play out in the longer term regarding the provision of education in the city, as a whole, is an as yet unanswered question.