New Zealand / Weather

Napier flooding: Principal 'anticipating the worst' for swamped school

08:48 am on 11 November 2020

A Napier school expects to be shut for at least another week to clean out flooded classrooms that took a battering from this week's torrential rain.

Henry Hill School in Onekawa has been flooded out after heavy rain hit the region. Photo: Facebook / Henry Hill School

While most schools in the worst-affected parts of Napier were closed on Tuesday, many are reopening this morning.

One exception is Henry Hill School in Onekawa, where half of the classrooms are flooded with knee-high water.

"All around the school is just debris from all kinds of places, the most random of things floating in the water" - Henry Hill School principal Jason Williams

Jason Williams, the school's principal, told Morning Report they would not know the damage until tomorrow morning, and the clean-up would take at least another week.

"The amount of debris that was floating around yesterday, it's just definitely not a safe place for anyone.

"I walked through and I was knee-deep in water on the back field ... it seriously looked like a river flowing through the school, because it was flowing pretty fast as well.

"I approached the first classroom and opened the door and it was absolutely soaked."

Williams said the school had experienced a similar flooding in 2004, but staff who came on-site yesterday said this was a lot worse.

"All kinds of things were floating around, we've got things like iPads that were charging ... maybe 15 iPads per class are damaged already and that's without even looking at the top level which may have been affected as well, power is out. It's a pretty sad scene to walk into and seeing things floating across the classroom floor."

The water had "dropped considerably" yesterday but overnight rain had been steady and was expected to continue today. MetService has also issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the region.

"It's anyone's guess how bad it's going to be and I suppose we're not starting with a level playing field - it was already soaked, so anticipating the worst," Williams said.

Online learning for students is expected to start today. While most whānau had seen the notification about that, Williams said this was different to the Covid lockdown situation because parents were going back to work now and there still weren't enough devices for students.

"So it's really hard to tell how this will impact our community.

"I think it was about a third of our community at least, a third to a half, didn't have access to a device to connect ... there's definitely some inequity there that no-one's been able to deal with yet."

Students are also able to connect via phone, but it made a difference in learning to have a device, he said.

A team from the Ministry of Education will come down to help assess damage.

Debris is floating all over Henry Hill School after heavy rain swamped the school. Photo: Facebook / Henry Hill School